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Alright you Saturday morning cartoon fans, it’s time for a story of brave innovation and artistic evolution gone horribly wrong that is about to grace your unwitting ears. We recount the downfall of such esteemed would be detectives of this field, particularly Fates Warning and Dream Theater, who in the name of originality, parted with tradition and embarked into the uncharted waters where power and progressive metal seek out the islands of modern rock and the infamous groove, only to run away in fear at the dreaded ghost of nu-metal. Indeed, this is the place of mystical wonders where 2+2 equals 5, up becomes down, and such seemingly mutually exclusive genres as modern rock and power/prog coexist in some warped sense of harmony.
When a band leaves the place that bore them their name and their status, as is the case with Labyrinth and their groovy, nu-metal mystery solving adventure “Freeman”, there is naturally a piece of what was that accompanies them on their trip in the metal mystery machine, aside from a final snack at the malt shop. Like the now cold case known as Dream Theater’s “Train of Thought”, a strong semblance of technical mastery on the part of this team still holds up in all quarters. Roberto Tiranti is still leading this bunch of meddling kids with his commanding, Ray Adler inspired tenor range, clean and crisp as ever. Cantarelli is still structuring his logical puzzle solving anthems and riffs symmetrically, as per the power metal norm; as only a knee sock, orange turtle neck, and thick glasses wearing brains behind the operation can. De Paoli still exemplifies the eye candy and damsel in distress who gives the sleuth outfit that beautiful atmosphere and an occasional moment of unexpected brilliance on the keyboards. And when needed, the group throws a Scooby Snack to Mattia Stancioiu and Cristiano Bertocchi to jump start the otherwise slow crime solving process with a few power metal moments.
The mystery that presents this malt shop frequenting Italian power metal outfit is simple. How did the nu-metal ghost sneak its way into Labyrinth’s sound and scare away all of the amazing power metal that was on “Return to Heaven Denied” and “Sons of Thunder”? But before we can get to the solution of this mystery we need clues, and where better to look than at the place of haunting, the Isle of the Freeman. After a few chase scenes with our group of detectives running from the groove heavy, muddy guitar toned, droning beast of a ghost, to the eerie sounds of recycled “Return to Heaven Denied” melodies sullied with Slipknot style 2 note riffs on “L.Y.A.F.H.” and the title track, we find something. Hey gang, what is with these goofy sounding, emotionally cryptic lyrics, must be a clue!
Before the nosey kids have too long to dwell on who the hell “Malcolm Grey” is, or why the music around his story meanders so aimlessly, that darn nu-metal ghost is back and Stancioiu and Bertocchi are running like crazy, both clinging to snacks found in an abandoned restaurant kitchen on the isle to sate their severe case of the munchies from all the ganja they smoked before being convinced to participate in this adventure. Now the gang has been split up and the ghost pursues the Great Dane drummer and hippie bass player to the sounds of “Dive into Open Waters” and “Nothing New”, reminding us of the more successful cases before this nu-metal nightmare of a mystery. Cantarelli discovers another clue accidentally while separated from the gang and losing his glasses. What is this? A really poor overall mixing job and a thin and flat sounding drum production, another clue.
Meanwhile, Stancioui and Bertocchi lose the nu-metal ghost for a while and eventually reunite with the others, after successfully navigating some random musical twists and turns in what is the new Labyrinth on Freeman Isle. Tiranti convinces the two unwilling stoner detectives to catch the ghost with a trap made out of still technically proficient but shorter guitar solos devised by Cantarelli, after throwing them a couple dozen Scooby Snacks of course. De Paoli lays some bait with a keyboard theme borrowed from better days in Labyrinth’s history to lure the ghost in with the album closer “Meanings”, although the trap is sprung pre-maturely due to some dumb groove riffs and a crappy down tuned guitar tone, but still ultimately succeeds in catching the ghost with a last minute keyboard solo out of De Paoli.
Now captured, the time has come to find out who this nu-metal ghost really is, and when the mask is removed all except Cantarelli are shocked at seeing the face of Olaf Thorsen, whose real name is Carlo Magnani, the former guitarist of Labyrinth. Cantarelli then recalls the clues of what led to this moment, reminding of the lousy, cryptic lyrics that never appeared in Labyrinth’s music before Olaf left the band, as well as the horrid modern guitar sound that is never to be found in any album with Olaf’s name on it. But what about motive, pipes in De Paoli, but before saying another word Cantarelli fixes his orange shirt collar and explains that Olaf’s goal by not being in the band was to continue making great power metal without all of the discussions of adding stupid modern rock ideas into the mix to keep their sound varied. And of course, just before being returned to his musically superior and consistent project Vision Divine by the authorities, Olaf utters in an annoyed tone that he would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for these meddling kids.
To all of you power metal enthusiasts out there who have a good sense of dark comic relief, I recommend getting a real cheap copy of Labyrinth’s Groovy Nu-Metal Adventure, or otherwise known as “Freeman”, a musical abortion that only a lover of “Train of Thought” or Fates Warning’s “Disconnected” could love. But for you ordinary, red blooded power metal fans out there who took a liking to this band’s earlier material, steer clear of it. Since the conclusion of this nu-metal abomination, long standing bassist Cristiano Bertocchi (Chris Breeze) came down from his stoner stupor, realized the situation and joined forces with Olaf Thorsen to create much better metal in Vision Divine. I’d suggest checking out “Stream of Consciousness” for the right way to merge complex lyrical subjects with prog-oriented power metal.