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Trick or Treat started out as a Helloween tribute band, but with Tin Soldiers have managed to create a pleasant modern power metal album with a distinct sound. Don't expect any innovative songwriting, but still this is an enjoyable release that is well performed and includes guest appearances by vocalists Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, Place Vendome, Avantasia) and Michele Luppi (Vision Divine).
The band is solid instrumentally, offering strong guitar riffs, memorable solos, nice drumming and good higher pitched vocals by lead singer Alessandro Conti. Their music can be labeled as modern melodic power metal. Tin Soldiers features several fast paced songs, some melodic mid-tempo numbers, one ballad and an instrumental piece. The songs and lyrics also manage to convey an uplifting and at parts comical feeling, which resembles in a way what Helloween did in their classic 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' albums.
The album's highlight is surely the guest appearance of Michael Kiske on two tracks. The ex-Helloween voice sings all the lead vocals on the strong and catchy melodic metal "Hello Moon" and some choruses aswell as the bridge of the atmospheric power ballad "Tears Against Your Smile". Kiske's vocals are emotional and powerful (as on all his recent work) and surely stand out in the album, even though lead singer Alessandro Conti is pretty capable aswell. Other memorable songs include the old school fast paced power metal track "Paper Dragon", the energetic "Elevator To The Sky" and the melodic metal number "Take Your Chance" which features Michele Luppi as guest.
So don't expect any groundbreaking stuff here, but the band is definitely on the right track and all band members are talented and seem enthusiastic about their music. Tin Soldiers is surely an enjoyable listen.
(origianally written for: http://www.amazon.com)
There are a lot of what ifs in the annals of German power metal. What if Michael Kiske had stuck with Helloween rather than going into a semi-hiatus for 15 years from Metal? What if “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” had been a more consistent album? What if Edguy still played in the genre that yielded up such undeniable classics as “Theater Of Salvation” and “Mandrake”? What if Ralf Scheepers decided to form a Gamma Ray oriented project rather than the Judas Priest inspired power house that is Primal Fear? The list goes on, all of them centered around the foundation of the late 90s power metal revival in Europe. In essence, all of these hypothetical situations converge in a single band which, as irony would have it, hails from Italy and has thrown off the symphonic clichés of their homeland in favor of a more straight up approach.
Fresh off an impressive yet goofy debut in “Evil Needs Candy Too”, Trick Or Treat has upped the ante here with a sizable slab of pure, unfettered catchiness, delivered up at warp speed. All of the triumphant major key choruses, high flying lead breaks, fast paced drumming and soaring falsettos that typified Kiske era Helloween and early Edguy are unapologetically painted on this album’s forehead. Vocalist Alessandro Conti, who does have a heavily similar vocal persona to that of the singers in both aforementioned bands, is joined by the ex-Helloween front man on roughly half the songs on here, marking the latest in a long line of temporary returns to the metal world for power metal’s favorite wayward son. Perhaps it is hoping against hope that Kiske will ever join a band in our beloved genre on a permanent basis, but I’m still not giving it up regardless.
Song for song, this is on the simpler side as far as German bands go, though definitely more complex than the earlier speed metal affiliates in Running Wild and Grave Digger. There’s no 13 minute epics in the vain of what Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath used to come up with, though there are occasional instrumental interchanges that come fairly close to Helloween’s early work with Deris. Such blistering speed fests as “Paper Dragon” and “Freedom” showcase a band that knows how to merge the techniques of speed metal with something of a pop/punk feel, while avoiding the overindulgence and videogame gimmicks of Dragonforce. “Rocket To The Sky” takes the same speed approach and mixes in some nifty, outer space keyboard sounds that drift perhaps a tiny bit closer to the famed British Guitar Hero phenomenon, but still stay well within the bounds of tastefulness.
Perhaps the only area where the band takes a little bit of a break from owning the now sparely populated field of Helloween revivalism is the album’s lone ballad. In many ways, “Tears Against Your Smile” could be likened to Kiske’s solo music, albeit with implied tendencies towards an orthodox power ballad that is well within the element of a band like this. Conti and Kiske work extremely well in this capacity, as the former’s somewhat lighter and operatic voice provides a subtle yet noticeable contrast to the latter’s signature Geoff Tate tendencies. It’s mostly acoustic and mellow, but it is as catchy as they get and stands out amongst a barrage of high quality, yet highly derivative music.
To anyone who has asked any of the questions contained in the beginning remarks here, this is the closest thing that you’ll likely get to answering all of them. It’s probably been said a thousand times before in a thousand different situations, but the truth is, they don’t make them like this anymore. The only thing that really works against this album and makes it slightly less extravagant than most of the bands it’s drawing influences from is the extremely orthodox approach to songwriting. It’s highly entertaining, but it is also very predictable. But like with any other gift, good things are not exclusive to those that come as a complete surprise.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 26, 2010.
Remember that band in the late 80s that released that double pair of albums that everyone and their grandmother worships as the pinnacle of power metal? Yeah. Nobody has ever tried to imitate those albums before. The vocalist from them never appeared in any other bands worshiping them, and they pretty much went unknown after that. Funny world, huh?
Okay, okay, this is Trick or Treat’s Tin Soldiers. Get it? Trick or Treat? Helloween? That’s so you can tell they wear their influence on their sleeves. Or on their pumpkin-shaped Halloween candy buckets; whichever. Tin Soldiers is their second album, released in 2009, and it has the lucrative premise of having Michael Kiske guest in about half of the songs on it. Because even though he hates metal, he isn’t above appearing on every. Single. Metal. Project. He can find. But he does a good job anyway, so I can’t complain.
What is the basic sound here, you might ask? Well, it’s like late 80s Helloween. I could just leave it at that, tell you that it has some really great songs on it for all of that, and end the review, but I think I’ll elaborate for clarity’s sake: this album features melodic, soaring guitar riffs and leads that soar even higher. It features high pitched vocals with a European accent and some slight vocal double-tracking to make it less intelligible what he’s saying. The drums are fast and hyperactive, the bass is electrically charged and the whole thing sounds like it came out of the original power metal rebirth in the late 90s. I’m serious; this totally could have been released in that time period, if not for the super-sleek production job.
And I shouldn’t like this so much, but…let’s face it; there are some really good songs on this thing. The first track – well, after the worthless intro bit – is “Paper Dragon,” and with its kinetic, bouncy riffing and inspired vocal tradeoffs between vocalist Alessandro Conti and Kiske, it is a really kick ass song, and one of the best old school power metal romps I’ve heard in a while. There are a couple standard songs like “Freedom” and “Take Your Chance,” but the real meat of the album starts with my favorite song here in the catchy, sugary-sweet anthem “Hello Moon,” with some of the best flowing melodies I’ve heard in a while and a great, great chorus to boot. “Elevator to the Sky” rocks out with a speedy tempo, “Loser Song” is furiously entertaining and even the ballad “Tears Against Your Smile” manages to conjure up some really good pathos in the listener. The double part title track is also quite good, serving as the band’s attempt at recreating a “Halloween” type deal, albeit in a much shorter and more condensed form, building up from an instrumental attack to a more traditional romp later on. The vocals set a campily creepy atmosphere and the guitars build up to a crescendo of might before dropping out to a quiet, moody acoustic deal at the end.
These guys are just really solid songwriters, and I think this album shows some real potential for a much better, more consistent offering a few years down the line. Songs like “Paper Dragon” and “Hello Moon” show some serious chops, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Tin Soldiers is a good album, and you should definitely check it out if you like 80s Helloween or any of those early revival bands like Nocturnal Rites, Gamma Ray, Hammerfall or older Edguy. What are you wasting time here for if you do, then? Go get it!
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com