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Something's missing here. - 72%

hells_unicorn, January 30th, 2007

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.