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Passably Savage - 72%

AnalogKid, September 14th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, AFM Records (Digipak)

Long life and health to Dushan Petrossi! The mastermind behind some of my favorite neoclassical metal has returned to his part time fantasy-skinned side project. While 2010’s Symphony Of War was a good album and maybe the best under the Magic Kingdom moniker, I think (and I believe others will agree with me) that Iron Mask has been Petrossi and bassist Vasiliy Molchanov’s main project for a very good reason. However, Savage Requiem has a statement or two to make, and while Magic Kingdom has a reputation for being a “pretty good album every five years” sort of band, that attitude may soon be bound for the grave.

I say this in part because of the addition of Christian Palin as the project’s vocalist. Petrossi has worked with some big names on his albums (see erstwhile Iron Mask vocalist Mark Boals), and seems to know how to get the most out of his mercenary vocal talent. Personally, I find Boals’ work with Iron Mask to be some of his very best, and while Magic Kingdom has boasted the voice of Olaf Hayer, I do not find Symphony Of War to have been the man’s best work. Palin is most notably responsible for vocal duties on Adagio’s excellent Archangels In Black, as well as fronting Random Eyes and power metal quasi-supergroup Epicrenel.

The sound of Savage Requiem is, while not a far throw from Symphony Of War, a bit beefier in both the guitar and voice departments. While Iron Mask’s Fifth Son Of Winterdoom cut back on the typical arpeggios, sequences, and baroque-styled solos that have long been Petrossi’s trademark, they’re back in force here, but with a little more “oomph” to the metal behind them. Dushan hogs a lot of the spotlight, consequently, with his furious fretwork, but his rhythm section is tighter than ever, and Palin’s singing is more throaty and aggressive (and we even glimpse a couple of growls). Actually, had the last couple of Iron Mask albums not deviated considerably from the group’s early blueprint, we might now be confusing Savage Requiem with another title from that act. So, maybe this sorcerer of shred has come full circle?

Well, in any case, this isn’t going to let down fans of prior Magic Kingdom – nor any other aficionados of neoclassical guitar gymnastics. Opener “Guardian Angels” starts things right on cue, and the group gradually begins spicing the album with some familiar, yet fresh-sounding entries like “Ship Of Ghost”, which distracts itself merrily with a jaunt into Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy’ before digressing into its solo section. The title track follows by being appropriately catchy and memorable, and dual corkers “With Fire And Sword” and “Dragon Princess” tie a pretty little bow around the album’s tail end. This album just might have the most up-and-up tracklisting of any Magic Kingdom release yet.

With such a well-established sound being the focus of Savage Requiem, anyone vaguely acquainted will know what they’re in for. The measure of such an album, therefore, is not “does it shred?”, therefore, but rather “how memorable are the songs behind all those Malmsteen licks?”. By my estimation, they’re pretty darn good, and Dushan Petrossi has not only earned some replay value with yet another of his compositions, but also built his credibility up one more notch with an attractive album that embellishes just enough upon the Magic Kingdom formula so as to remain supremely listenable. A high-priority listen for Petrossi fans and neoclassical enthusiasts alike!

Originally written for Black Wind Metal