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Formulaic power metal - 53%

Charlo, June 18th, 2008

Insania's "Fantasy: A New Dimension" is an odd album. Technically, all the parts for a glorious power metal album are there. But in reality, this album comes off as formulaic, uninspired, and unoriginal.

The songwriting talent of this band is undeniable. They know how to right catchy, happy melodies, and that's what power metal is all about, right? So, these guys know how to right a good ol' rip-roaring power metal anthem. The problem is that they don't know how to write anything else. Everything on this album sounds generally the same, with double-bass drums, fast, simplistic riffs, soaring vocals, and predictable song structures. This band seems to only know how to play one style at one tempo. And that's what makes this album a real bore. Things start off alright with "Life After Life" and "Illusions", but after about the fourth track you just want to snap it off and put on something different.

The instrumental work on this album is all very well done, but it's not especially technical or emotive. The guitars play riffs solely for rhythm's sake; most of the time, chord changes happen only once or twice a measure. Sometimes the guitars have melody in the form of simple passages that almost qualify as solos, but not quite. And the real solos are completely unmemorable, although they are reasonably fast and melodic. At least the production emphasizes the heaviness of the guitars, so the end product at least has some balls.

Given that the rhythm aspect of the band is given mostly to the guitars, you wouldn't expect the bass guitar and drums to do anything interesting. You would be correct. The drums play predictable patterns like a metronome; even the fills are machine-like. Double-bass drum patterns are predominant, but at this tempo they don't work very well. If you're going to have a pattern with an excess of notes, it has to be played fast for it to have any effect. And since this band seemingly is incapable of playing fast (at times getting frustratingly close), the standard power metal beat is rendered useless. As for the bass, I can't name a single part of this album, in my repeated listens, where I even noticed that the bass existed at all. Listening closely, I could tell it was there—barely. The life of a metal bassist is a rough one.

The keyboard player is almost completely unheard on many of the song on this album. Some songs, such as "Master of My Mind", have dramatically increased keyboard usage, which alleviates the soul-crushing monotony of the album a little bit. There are never enough keyboards to call this album symphonic in any way, but sometimes that influence shows through a little. The keyboard solos are generally better than their guitar counterparts; they're uniformly fast and clean, with no messing around. However, in songs with no keyboard presence to speak of, the solos are unexpected and detrimental to the flow of the song. Despite this being a power metal album, not every song needs to have a keyboard solo.

One of the high points of this band is the talent of the vocalist. He has a powerful, melodic voice that is free from accent. Plus, he can hit the high notes without sounding too forced. The vocal melodies are catchy but they all kind of blend in with each other, so at the end of the album you might very well be humming one of these songs, but you won't have a clue which one you're humming. The lyrics are generally about earth and humanity, which isn't what the title and cover would lead you to believe…as a Rhapsody freak I was disappointed by this. Take a look at that cover! That's false advertisement at its worst. Despite the dragon on the cover, the word "dragon" is never once uttered during the course of this album. Blasphemy!

Overall this album is boring and repetitive. There are some truly epic parts, like the end of "Universe" and parts of "Fantasy" (with its overt neo-classical stylings), but in between there is a lot of generic power metal. This is exactly the kind of album I should love, and if this album had more variation, I would definitely love it. But by the end of this album, you're so tired of this style that there's no room to appreciate how much this band does correctly. I don't even recommend this for anybody except fans of mid-tempo, ultra-melodic power metal.