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There are many in the metal movement who believe that 6 is a crowd, that bands are made up of 5 or less ideally, but in the case of Labyrinth it can be plainly stated that the sum was not more than the parts. It is truly sad that not everyone can juggle two projects on a permanent basis, save perhaps workaholics like Dan Zimmerman and Piet Selick, but in the case of Labyrinth the inability of Olaf Thorsen to maintain both Vision Divine and this band which he co-founded in his schedule would be a deep wound indeed. The wound can be observed in this album, both in terms of the songwriting and the technical end of the spectrum.
Even if you don’t immediately check to band line-up in the CD insert, when you listen to these songs you can tell that something essential is missing, a voice that doesn’t use words. It’s absence is mostly felt during the solo sections, where Andrea de Paoli is now picking up the missing element’s slack, but the overall sound of each song is quite thinner owing to the fact that Anders Rain is not able to copy Olaf’s unique sound on the overdubbed guitar tracks, regardless to the technology he has available to him. Furthermore, although the guitar tracks are quite loud in comparison to the last 2 releases, the riffs are lacking in character and depth. If K.K. Downing tried to record an entire Judas Priest album without Glenn Tipton playing along side him, you’d get a very similar result.
The songwriting on here is all over the place, as it seems that Labyrinth is journeying somewhat close to Fates Warning’s final destination of progression at the cost of power. Tracks such as “The Prophet”, “Synthetic Paradise” and “Slave to the Night” stay true to the older style of Labyrinth’s days with Olaf still on left side of the mix by both rocking hard and giving us a solid chorus to sing along with. Meanwhile, others such as “Terzinato” and “Livin’ in the Maze” deliver equally as strong in the chorus department, but have so many abrupt changes in feel and quiet piano/acoustic guitar breaks that they don’t flow as smoothly as expected.
“This World” is a good mid-tempo track with an impressive little slap bass intro by Chris Breeze, but it doesn’t quite stick in your head as much as previous album tracks do. “Just Soldier” has its good and bad parts, most of the former being towards the beginning before the contrasting sections start hitting from all directions. “Never Ending Rest” is a nice but unspectacular ballad, relying a bit too much on keys and vocals and short changing the guitar. “Hand in hand” and “When I will fly far” are basically musical afterthoughts, if you skip to them you will be left wanting more, if you listen to the others to get to them you’ll be too bewildered by what else is going on to notice.
What is heard on this album can be best described as musical dissonance, owing mostly to mixing way too many outside influences into a Power/Prog format. It is still a metal album, but with all this other stuff going on it’s difficult to focus on the metal elements. Anders plays his ass off every time he has a solo, but he can’t escape the fact that his duels with Andrea sound a lot like the ones Sonata Arctica does, nor can he find another guitarist to balance out the overtly high end sound of his rhythm tracks with. Rob Tyrant belts out a ton of high notes and sings with passion, but what is going on around his voice is not giving him the support he usually has. Due to poor mixing, Mats’ drums are nowhere near as prominent nor as thunderous as they were on “Return to Heaven Denied”.
Although this is a somewhat lackluster release, it is still a decent power metal album with a lot of progressive elements. The problem is that when one compares this to the last 2 albums, there is nothing to do other than be let down by it. This band had a winning formula and it went out the window the minute that Olaf left, so the reason for this release being the self-titled one is lost on me. This album comes recommended to fans of Dream Theater and later Fates Warning, fans of melodic power metal with keyboards will also find things to like, but when you shop for it try to find a copy below the $10 mark.
Mmmm, yeah, nice progressive metal. Thats right, this album is much less power metal oriented than their previous releases. Its more like 80-20% in the progressive-power ratio. What is still intact, however, are the trademarks of Labyrinth: AWESOME vocals from Robero Tirani (in my opinion, one of the best singers in metal today), technical and proggy keyboards/keyboard solos, dreamy sublime guitars/whirlwind guitar soloing, solid basswork(though he's not the biggest standout) ,and technical drum mastery throughout.
Heres whats different: Heavier in places and less focus on traditional power metal, and there is less focus on the verse/chorus/verse patterns. This album is ALOT more complex. There is now only one guitar player, which makes the band a bit more reliant on the technical (sometimes spacey-sounding) keyboards. This doesn't mean the guitars are buried in the back though, because they most certainly are not! The guitars are perfectly even in the mix and sometimes the riffs border on bits of "groove", just like bands such as Dream Theater like to incorporate. This is mixed with the occasional speed metal riffage akin to Painkiller-era Priest. And what is this? A good production?!? No, its a great production! Every aspect of the sound is perfectly clear and audible.
Some sections even border on nu-metal tendinces. At about 2:40 into This World, is a guitar riff sounding much like a Godsmack riff, but its quickly put into context with a dazzling spacey keyboard solo, much akin to what Jordan Rudess does in Dream Theater. And about the standout tracks:
Just Soldier (Stay Down) shows Labyrinth's ultra-technical progressive metal tendiences. This is the most proggy thing they've ever done. But the intro riff is pure molten speed metal that goes into some FUCKING AWESOME drumming and double bass, then the vocals really kick in and goddamn can this guy sing! Yeah, he is singing high here, but don't think for one second that this song is flower metal.. this song is heavy motherfucking speed metal! Anyway, you'll bang your head like a motherfucker for (especially for) the middle section of this song! It gets really eerie and even doomy for a minute (at the 2:52 mark) before it speeds up to proceed to rip your face out of your ass with its blazing riffage and soloing! And it even manages to do so with the keyboard solo that takes the guitar solos place, which is still just as awesome. How they perfectly crossed technical prog metal with melodic beauty with blazing speed metal in the context of this song is beyond me!
Another standout is Neverending Rest. Its a ballad yes. But a great fucking ballad! This shows how Roberto Tirani completely obliterates the competition as far as SINGING goes! And thats not just in the metal world either. Anyway, this is a proggy piano drenched Mullmuzzler-like ballad with a focus on the vocals which really display alot of emotion, all backed by the searing sublime guitar riffs, and soothing keys. And goddammit, that middle section gives Dream Theater a run for their money...this is how you play progressive fucking metal! Each member of the band has their own technical run (all at the same time prettymuch) in this song.
Then theres Terzinato which (like a few other moments on this disc) sounds more akin to alot of Sons of Thunder (the previous album) That means its a little more direct. The chorus is more on the technical prog side with the keys displaying (the guitars are also displaying nice effects and are very crunchy) dazzling whirlwind technicality. The middle section, (oh my fucking god), is again, pretty fast and fucking technical as the keys and guitar take turns melodicly dualing while the drums are going crazy behind them.
Best song: Slave to the Night. Its more power metallish with its intro incurrance of mid paced twin guitar harmonization (very dreamy sounding). This one sounds a bit more direct and less progressive. They waste no time getting to the chorus. The keys in the verses are spacey (in the background) here but the riffs are more in front, and what we get from the riffs is a nice crunchy vibe sounding a bit like the guitars in the Priest song "Painkiller". Oh yes, and Roberto gets the award for highest note ever in the middle section of the song (accomanied only by keyboards) when he reaches this particular note, sustains it, and vibrattos it all to hell...this is about the coolest scream I've ever heard! Then after that the song picks up and they Dream Theater-ize the solo making it really bombastic and technical.
Hand in Hand is another perfect marriage of power and prog. This is Dream Theater meets Rush meets Stratovarius and the technical ability is astounding. But, no they don't skip on the atmosphere. This song is pure fucking atmosphere, and melodic as hell to boot.
When Will I Fly Far is the ballad the closes the album. Very epic, emotional, and atmospheric it is. The keyboards are the main instrument but the vocals are the highlight. The overall sound of it is really moody and sultry and it makes me think of Bob Segar's "Turn the Page". And lastly, the vocal display at the end is unparalled as Rob sings so high that I thought it was actually keyboards the first few times. How he can nail all of those notes is amazing.
OK, overall there are a few filler incurrances on this album but really no song is outright bad. This means, there are a few so-so sections in songs that either slightly re-tread on Sons of Thunder waters or are too proggy for my tastes, BUT every song has something amazing in it. And you really have to listen to this album many times before you can hear and appreciate all of the outstanding music that it contains. But If I were more of a prog metal fan this might of gotten a higher score....