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There’s a lot to be said for NWOBHM bands being hooked in by the 80s party rock craze, but there’s usually a lot less to be said when it comes to them reforming and starting off promising, only to coast off into a slowed down, boring, progressive rut in the vain short for trying to sound mature. That’s pretty much how I can sum up “Noises From The Cathouse”, a long drawn out attempt at modernizing, maturing, and ultimately ending up out in musical no man’s land. This is the sort of album that I’ve come to expect out of Fates Warning since after the defection of Frank Aresti and Joe DiBiase, but when a band that originally prided itself on simplicity attempts it, it’s a whole other ballgame.
To be fair, there is a certain charm to music that is slowed down, deep, and progressive. But this interpretation of it is essentially the equivalent of Raven attempting to write an album like “Celestial Entrance” (Pagan’s Mind). The riffs are a slowed down version of what was employed on “Crazy Nights”, meshed with some modern groove conventions that are somewhat along the lines of Fear Factory, and there’s even some subtle industrial elements hidden in the background the spurt up from time to time. It could almost be akin to a merging of Dream Theater and Black Sabbath, if the riffs weren’t so formulaic and repetitive. “Master Of Illusion”, “Cybernation” and “Déjà vu” in particular come off as utterly overlong and essentially coast from atmospheric interludes to slowed down semi-bluesy mediocrity.
There are some songs on here that attempt to revisit better days, particularly “Bad Bad Kitty”, which piles on the AC/DC influences and sounds somewhat close to the bluesy songs that Saxon put out in the past 6 years or so. “Running Man” gives a brief glimpse back to the days of “Spellbound” with a catchy, somewhat melancholy intro riff that is somewhat reminiscent of Iron Maiden. These songs are partially held back by Richie Wicks’ bellowing vocals, which sound like a slightly cleaner and less sloppy version of Michael Bolton or some other 80s pop/rock singer. His contribution to Angel Witch as a bass player is noteworthy, but as a vocalist he just doesn’t really do much apart from sing in pitch and manages not to sound absolutely terrible, but somewhat grating to someone who was partial to John Deverill’s voice.
Not really a shining moment in recent history for this band of metallic cats, but there’s been worse put out by even better known bands. It’s the kind of album that can be listened to if you’re doing something else, as the overlong epic songs tend to drag out and repeat so much that one might fall asleep trying to get through them. Unless your band’s name is Iron Maiden and you actually know how to mix a large number of ideas into a singular song, if you play heavy metal and had your start in Britain between 1978 and 1982, you shouldn’t write songs that break the 7 minute barrier; it’s just something that’s not in the cards as working. Mediocrity is best when avoided, and so is this album.