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A werewolf, a phantom and Mr. Hyde walk into a graveyard... - 90%

hells_unicorn, May 20th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Frontiers Records

Frontiers Records has been something of a godsend for those out there who like their metal melodic and guitar oriented, being a sort of go-to label for a number of veterans of the scene looking to keep their name out there. Among their more recent acquisitions is the iconic maestro of all things shred, or as Yngwie Malmsteen would refer to him, "the competition", Chris Impellitteri. The younger crowd may remember his vocalist Rob Rock (not the Metallica producer that helped kill thrash metal) as a occasional guest on early albums out of Tobias Sammit's Avantasia, but both he and the six-string mastermind behind the songs have been at it since the primeval year of 1983, originally as members of the metal/rock outfit Vice, and collaborating under the moniker of his last name for the better part of the last 30 years. The changing tides of metal have not gone unnoticed to the fold of musicians under consideration, and if their latest offering Nature Of The Beast is any indication, they are far from averse to the ongoing trend towards a heavier and more massive sound in keeping with a number of heavy and thrash metal outfits of yesteryear's more recent output, let alone the European power metal scene's affinity for theatrics.

In keeping with previous offerings and incarnations of this band, this album is a very flamboyant balancing act between the wild technical prowess of the guitarist and a compact songwriting formula that makes things palpable to an audience that doesn't necessarily want to hear an album of 10 minute epic shred fests. In contrast to fellow shred impresario Malmsteen's Rising Force, these songs have more of a speed metal base to them, almost like a modernized answer to the iconic Becker vs. Friedman show that was Cacophony. The riffing style is loaded to the brim with ornamentation, largely in the form of rapid-paced scale runs that mirror the Neo-classicism of Yngwie, but is otherwise a bit more in line with a sped up version of old school heavy metal given the more stripped down arrangement and heavier demeanor. By contrast, the choruses have a very strong European power metal sound, occasionally crossing into Helloween territory, and otherwise leaning a bit more on that hook-driven, iconic old school fanfare vibe that speed metal acts like Primal Fear and Paragon imported from Judas Priest, and likewise mirrors the fast yet precise character of sound in the rhythm section and employs keyboards sparingly for atmospheric effect.

At first glance, this album has all of the trappings of a modern speed metal affair, putting forth a heavy-ended riffing display that is a typical feature of modern metal acts over the past decade yet a bit atypical for this outfit. The opening bruiser "Hypocrisy" listens like an opening anthem of metallic celebration in the Primal Fear vein, but with a guitarist that's even fancier than Magnus Karlsson and takes more frequent opportunities to let it be know. A fairly similar modern speed metal vibe is struck on crushers like the almost thrashing riff monster "Gates Of Hell" and the almost metalcore melodic anthem "Wonder World", while this band's insane rendition of Sabbath's "Symptom Of The Universe" that brings out the latent porto-thrash metal characteristics of said song with a vengeance. Even when things take a breather for more grooving territory such as "Man Of War" and the Dio-like rocker "Kill The Beast", the guitars refuse to settle down with the rest of the arrangement and continually give the tech junkies what they want while roping in a few old school fans. Novelty hunters of the more symphonic persuasion will find a momentary draw with a take on Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom Of The Opera" that's faster than but fairly comparable to the Nightwish rendition, and those who want speed like it's going out style will be more than satiated by the frenetic fury of "Fire It Up" and "Run For Your Life".

Although Impellitteri would likely never consider it a competition, there is a sizable contingent of shred fans who are likely keeping score between where this outfit's albums go vs. Malmsteen's concurrent trajectory in the studio, and a more insular and instrumentally-geared approach out of the latter of late will naturally have fans looking for greener pastures comparable to where Ygnwie was in the 80s and early 90s. While this album is pretty far removed from a twin of Rising Force's formative offerings, this one could pass for a somewhat distant cousin to the Michael Viscera era when things were still cooking yet also moving towards a heavier and more dangerous end of the heavy metal spectrum. Crossover appeal into the more vicious end of the European power/speed metal scene is pretty much a given as well, and perhaps even the lighter end of the spectrum occupied by old school Edguy and a few others when dealing with the melodic content behind Rob Rock's sleazy pipes and the thunderous instrumentation behind them. Whether you like your accessible protagonist morphing into a werewolf, a misshapen freak with a knack for pipe organs and nooses, or the less than pleasant trollish Mr. Hyde, this album is about as effective of a display of dueling consonance and rage as one can get at present.

Later published to The Metal Observer ( on June 20,2019.