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Jon, seriously, lose the voice... - 75%

doomknocker, May 21st, 2010

The name struck me. That’s what got me to give this new disc a go. I mean, looking back at that which has had Mr. Oliva’s name on it, be it the thrash operas of SAVATAGE or the Christmas metal anthems of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, you know that you’d be in for a musical smorgasbord of sophistication. That’s just how the little bugger operates, it seems. Plus, I’d already been thrown by ANOTHER group called “PAIN”, so I ask…could lightning strike twice in that regard?

I put in the disc and awaited for it to wash over me…

Much like the first PAIN I’d come across in this batch of recordings I got into it rather easily, though unfortunately it’s not quite as thunder-striking as the former. From soup to nuts what the listener gets into with this disc is what I’d call traditional Oliva Metal, wherein overall compositional ability takes a metallic format versus two-dimensional heaviness and “trueness”. This version of PAIN crams more musicality in only a few songs than other bands can do in entire albums, taking an approach that’s somewhere between vintage SAVATAGE and “Into the Electric Castle”-era AYREON with a carnival of horrors setting befitting the cover art (and, I’m sure, overall album theme). The performance is very top notch, where crushing guitars, soaring leads/solos, synthetic noodlings, and punchy percussion take any and all on a wild ride through a dark and wicked landscape of escapist delight…but sometimes it’s a bumpy ride. Much of this can be attributed to the raspy and very unbecoming harsh vocal approach that grates on the ears and bothers in its attempts to make itself more noticeable over the metallic cacophony. It serves more as an unnecessary distraction from the full-on performance and honestly I could REALLY do without it. In this case, paying more attention to the music itself works far better wonders as there’s a lot more to take in, from the madness of “Death Rides a Black Horse”, to the prog-from-Hell of “Afterglow” and the maddening “The Evil Within”.

So all in all this disc is a pretty fantastic foray into progressive chaos. It would’ve been much better had the group went with a different singer, but I guess in this case beggars can’t be choosers, and you take what you get. Recommended if you don’t mind taking your metal with a mindfuck chaser.