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A decent, if unspectacular, follow-up. - 76%

Nightcrawler, October 17th, 2003

The follow-up to Cacophony's shredding masterpiece Speed Metal Symphony, Go Off!, (ya gotta love the !) would also be their last. And this one's also pretty damn solid, but at the same time a rather disappointing follow-up.
There band changed quite drastically between the two CD's. The first and least significant is the production, which is still pretty solid but not as heavy and effective as that of the debut. And the songwriting shows pretty much the same difference. This is much lighter, both in the music and general mood. There are quite a number of mellow, balladic pieces and interludes thrown in here and there, that usually work alright but occasionally are a bit boring, like the middle section of opening track X-Ray Eyes. And the keyboards on that part are also really dumb and cheesy.
The songwriting in general is pretty upbeat and fun, most notably on the first couple of songs. Some of them have a significant vibe of traditional metal, like Stranger and E.S.P. And it usually works quite well mixed with the mad shredding solos. But the solos in themselves again are quite weak compared to the debut. Shredding is pretty much all there is too it, without much variation and interesting riffs thrown in to keep your attention. So at times it kinda gets boring, despite Marty Friedman and Jason Becker's undeniable guitarplaying talent. The stuff is not bad, however, just way weaker than the near impeccable guitarwork on the instrumental masterpiece Concerto from Speed Metal Symphony. There are a few changes in the tempo and feeling in several of the long solo sections, but those at times don't work quite as well as they used to. The previously mentioned mellow part in X-Ray Eyes is just dumb, and the instrumental title track has a similarly dumb melodic section with even more annoying keyboards. But there is also some really great shit in here. The solo section in Black Cat starts out pretty crazy but then gets lighter, yet it still works very well. And the album's best track, Sword of the Warrior, has a completely awesome solo section with some monstrous riffs in the speed/thrash area to back it up.

So overall, it's not a bad album, just not as great as it's predecessor. X-Ray Eyes, E.S.P. and Stranger is pretty catchy stuff. The two instrumentals work pretty well too. The shredding title track kinda varies in quality but is overall solid, and the melodic closing track Images features some very interesting ideas, including some oriental-sounding guitarwork and brilliant emotional soloing. Black Cat has along with the great solo section some really catchy vocal work and this one dark and kinda epic riff on the pre-chorus part which totally slays. And of course Sword of the Warrior, which is really the only song on here that could compete to stuff from the first album in the heaviness factor.
Floating World is also very nice, with great variations between the heavy and melodic stuff, and some interesting clean vocal work by the usually gruff and intensely powerful vocalist Peter Marrino, who by the way gives another exceptional vocal performance on this album.

So yeah, this is definitely worth picking up. Except for Sword of the Warrior, there isn't really anything overwhelmingly great here, but at the same time none of the songs stand out as weak or sub-par. It's not as heavy nor as generally amazing as Speed Metal Symphony, but a solid release when all is said and done.