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Labyrinth released one great prog power metal album that everyone talks about in Return to Heaven Denied, and yes, it was awesome. I'm not very familiar with their career in between that album and this one, but I like this one a lot. 6 Days to Nowhere is one of the more extreme examples of a former power metal band going in an entirely new, strange direction, as this is basically a cross between subdued melodic metal and Radiohead-esque mellow coffee shop soft sock, and it's great.
I know, I know – that probably doesn't sound good. But the band really sells it, and they do the style up with genuine emotional and heartfelt songwriting. There are a lot of songs on here and they're all fairly simple, with little adornments outside of rhythmic guitars and cool, light keyboard sprinklings and catchy vocal lines – they're very to-the-point and it works, because it takes talent to make simplistic songs this engaging. Vocalist Rob Tiranti reins in his high pitched wailing for a more controlled performance, which is fitting for the album – not every singer needs to wail his head off to sound great.
So really there's no obstacles between the listener and the raw emotion on display – the raw feelings of loneliness and isolation and being trapped; no boundaries of technicality and musical adornments to distract from the outpouring sorrow and unrest from Tiranti's silky vocal cords and those svelte, slick guitar riffs. On songs like “Crossroads” and “Just One Day” they sound the most metal, with rattling guitar riffing and galloping tempos – albeit with a much more pensive attitude than most of their contemporaries would go for. “Lost” is a brilliant song, transitioning much better than anyone could rightfully expect between charging speed and mellow, jazzy despair and “What???” is a bizarre slice of chugging, idiosyncratic prog that ends up one of the album's more deft, clever moments overall.
Most of the album foregoes the metal in favor of more laid back rock music. “Mother Earth” is a bluesy old school 70s rock track with mellow leads and a wailing vocal set and songs like “Waiting Tomorrow,” “Coldness” and “Rusted Nail,” which see the band embracing stodgy rock riffs and plain, amiable vocals perhaps more friendly to the inside of an indie rock show. “Wolves'n'Lambs” is perhaps one of the album's weirdest moments with a lurching chorus section bookended by electronic rhythms, and closing ballad “Smoke and Dreams” is a perfect soundtrack to wandering the city streets under the moon in a city you've never been to before.
Despite the variety on display, lyrically is where the album really comes together, as all these songs are tied together with themes of feeling displaced and out of touch and alone. It's not happy music, and the vibe is a very detached and chilled kind of malaise, which makes it unique compared to the angst you might expect upon reading some of the lyrics with no music. But it works, and I think it's really relatable and easy to get into. Who can't remember a time they felt that way – alone and scared and shut off from humanity? The band sells the lyrics with a genuine honesty, and the album comes out affecting and personal as a real artistic statement. I dig this and you should check it out if you like individual, emotionally resonant music – very highly recommended.
Cry out and tell them, there is a way
Made of little signs of love and mercy
Cry out and someone will hear your voice
Maybe is not much but it's a good start
Two years after deciding to stop writing solid power metal with a slight, progressive edge and instead get their groove on, Labyrinth decided to turn back the clock a little. There is little doubt that their fans didn’t much take to the utter lack of direction or quality in the sound of “Freeman”, let alone the genre confusion, so a decision to ease up on the nu-metal a little was in order. Nonetheless, this Italian outfit hasn’t completely rid itself of some negative influences that seeped their way in after Olaf Thorsen left for greener pastures.
The principle problem on “6 days to Nowhere” is that it never really seems to stick to any good ideas long enough. Inconsistencies in the direction of the songwriting pop up again and again, often several times in a single song. There are times where this album really starts to cook and you think that the majesty of songs like “Moonlight” and “Thunder” is going to endure, but then they get into some sort of quasi-break down section that throws everything off, before going somewhere completely different. Most of the choruses sound recycled, and are continually haunted by off the wall changes in tempo that recur regularly, yet don’t really seem to fit at all.
Although often fast and aggressive, there is both a constant sense of mellowness and randomness of style throughout the album that drag things down. “Mother Earth” and “Just one day” are the worst offenders in this regard, having guitar riffs that seem to go on forever and so many out of place tempo shifts that you lose any sense of buildup or climax. “Out of Control” and “Rusty Nail” both sound like a mud butt discharges left over from the Freeman sessions, loaded with crappy nu-metal riffs and out of place keyboard sounds. “Wolves ‘N’ Lambs” starts off sounding like sampled background music for the latest Kanye West single, before going into a weird barrage of groove sections, and then a few blast beat sections. One has to wonder where the song is in this mess.
The instances where memories of better days are consistently upheld are few and far between, but some songs on here do manage to accomplish this. The opening track “Crossroads” works well as a mid-tempo hold over that could have fit well on “Sons of Thunder”. “What?” and “Coldness” also carry some characteristics from the days back when Olaf Thorsen was still contributing to this outfit. The cover of “Come Together” is also really good, definitely not as boring and redundant musically as the original version. Probably the best thing on here is the “Piece of Time” remake, which again invokes the mid-tempo aspect of the band’s history, as the idea of writing speed metal is clearly gone from Labyrinth’s repertoire.
Fans of older Labyrinth are advised to look for this at a low price. $7 is the highest amount of value that could be attributed to this half-hearted attempt at regaining some ground while mostly continuing to put out stuff oriented towards a non-power metal audience. Although there are moments where things really pick up, almost every song has ballad-like sections and down tempo break downs that completely ruin the flow of the album. At best, you’ll skip around constantly and like 5 or 6 of these songs, and at worst you’ll just end up letting this collect dust when realizing you still have a copy of “Return to Heaven Denied”.