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Your enjoyment of this particular disc hinges on one primary factor – your tolerance for the super-saturated Italian power metal scene. If you can’t stand bands like Vision Divine, Secret Sphere, Highlord, and so on, then you’ll undoubtedly hate this album as well. True, it’s not particularly noteworthy in the grand scheme of things, but it has just enough of a unique essence so as to make it enjoyable. Not great, but enjoyable.
Of course the vocals on display here are of the high-pitched variety, but they are actually the one semi-unique thing about this album. For you see, there’s high-pitched, and then there’s this guy (Daniel Reda). His vocals are some of the strangest I’ve heard in a while. They aren’t really of the shrill, shrieky variety that we’re used to with this genre. I’m not even sure how to properly describe them, actually. His normal singing voice is a bit deeper than many of his peers, but he insists on stretching his range quite a ways past its comfort zone. That is, he’s all over the place. Sometimes he sounds folky; other times he sounds thin. He rarely picks a style and sticks with it for a full song. It is pretty obvious that he’s straining on some parts (listen to “War of the Races” at about the 2:20 mark), but overall I find his work somewhat refreshing. To me, a lot of the Italian singers, while technically very solid, all sound alike. Bands like the aforementioned trio, Rhapsody, Arthemis – most of those guys are almost interchangeable. Reda, while not as good of a true singer, is unique enough to make me like him.
As for the music, it’s the usual fast power metal with sugary choruses and the like. However, there is a slight hint of some folk elements, perhaps like a very distant cousin of Elvenking. Also enjoyable is the fact that every song isn’t an all-out speed fest with nonstop double bass kicking. The synth/piano ballads do little for me, being both rather boring and overlong. Same with the instrumental – that thing just lurches toward the finish, an exhausting 3:37 later. Wake me when it’s over, please. As for the other songs, well, nothing really sticks out. Honestly, take away Reda’s vocals (replacing him with one of the generic singers I mentioned) and this becomes just another generic power metal snoozer. For an obscure late 90s Underground Symphony release the production is great – not a hint of the shoddy, bargain-basement production jobs that flat-out ruined a lot of the label’s earlier catalog.
Really, folks, let’s be honest here: perusing the Underground Symphony catalog for something unique and groundbreaking is sheer folly. You know exactly what you’re getting with 95% of their stuff – competent, if generic, melodic power metal. With that being said, Pandaemonium at least have one trump card in Reda. The more I listen to this album, the more I like his voice. I was a little put off at first, as I expect just about all listeners to be the second he opens his pie hole, but with repeated listens it grew on me. I still wouldn’t count this anywhere near my favorites of the power metal genre, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, because it is. I’m looking forward to hearing their 2005 release (finally, six years later!).