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Too skimpy with the former, too rich in the latter - 58%

autothrall, November 1st, 2010

Radakka always stood out as one of the more unusual signings for Century Media in the mid through late 90s; not because they were necessarily an awful band, but because their sound seemed so at odds with what that label was riding towards success, namely a number of the European bands that they had licensed or outright managed to sign, such as Opeth and Dark Tranquillity. Instead of soaring folk tinged melodies imbued in a black or death schema, Radakka were essentially a straight up hard rock/metal band with some traces of lite progressive not unlike the Fates Warning records of the early 90s. Accessible and professional to the core, this Chicago quintet was not exactly a hit for the label, because this was just not a style in demand for the time.

Not that Radakka were about to break the mold, but had Malice and Tranquility arrived in the late 80s during the era of Empire or other arena metal using such a prim and proper production, the material here might have been considered catchy enough to develop a following. Certainly the band have some strong points, namely the clarity of their writing, and the sailing vocal chords of John Dobbs, but they rarely develop into anything bordering on true intensity. They do possess some heavier riffs which they set on cruise mode in "Masquerade", "Solitude", and "I'll Walk Alone", but there's a rather lax atmosphere to much of the writing which seems to cast a pallor of relaxation here, even when Dobbs is twisting into a tortured upper active, or the lyrics seem to brood on serious and humane issues. At best, the band can entertain through some solid if simple riffing ("End of the Line", "Out of the Dark") and slight flourishes of what some listeners would consider 'progressive' groove metal ("Rainy Daze"), though some of the tracks take it a little too far, like "Beautiful Thing", which is like a flaky pop rock which only hints at the band's metallic roots.

It's this restraint which ultimately fails to deliver more than an average AOR-like experience that allows for few flirtations with any real power. Radakka sound distinctly American, and there might be something here for fans of Fifth Angel or 90s Riot, but they lack the storming melodies and thrust of a Jag Panzer or even the fantasy flights of Kamelot. The composition of the leads and the arrangement of the backing vocals are all tight, and the songs show some diversity and a strict melodic sensibility, but this album ultimately falls below the radar due to its rather 'out of time' aesthetics that often border on sterility; not to mention the often cliche or just dopey lyrical patterns that often risk a little too much hair/hard rock pep ("Rainy Daze" and the almost rapped vocal bridge at about 3:50 in "Masquerade"). Today, Malice and Tranquility (note the similar of the font to Dark Tranquility's logo...) is best remembered as an anomalous choice in signings for a rapidly expanding record label, more than for its musical content, which is sadly not that impressive, without being lamentable or even laughable.