By Bob Nalbandian

Sons Of Thunder
Metal Blade

Metal Blade

Metal Blade

Like Rhapsody, Labyrinth hail from Italy and are a driving force in the new wave of European symphonic/power-metal. Great musicianship throughout and noteworthy vocals from Roberto Tiranti (English translation: Rob Tyrant.) Garnering influences from Helloween to Rising Force, Labyrinth formed in '91 and have released two previous (full-length) albums which have generated a great deal of attention in their homeland of Italy, as well as Germany (where they've performed at such high profile festivals as God's Of Metal, Dynamo, Wacken, and Bang Your Head Festival.) A solid production, courtesy of Neil Kernon (Queensryche, Dokken), lends to the band's credit, but, unfortunately none of the songs truly standout or offer anything we haven't heard before from other German and Scandinavian power-metal bands.

Flux is Masquerade's third release. Hailing from Sweden, this four-piece band have a great deal of talent (not uncommon for Swedish bands) but truly suffer from an identity crisis. After listening to this CD, I still can't tell what direction the band are going. Diversity and creativity is what keeps metal music alive and exciting, but this is an obvious attempt of a band merely throwing several musical styles together in hopes of capturing some kind of audience. Unfortunately, this does not work to the bands advantage. The biggest flaw is in the vocal department, here vocalist Tony Johansson (who, at times, sounds quite soulful) strains his voice in so many annoying ways, it makes you wonder what in the hell he is trying to accomplish. At times, the band attempt the alt-rock/Matchbox 20 kind of thing, and other times they're trying to be Queensryche. There are a few unique ideas thrown in here and there, but the bottom line is, there are no songs on this record. Masquerade are similar to Scandinavian label-mates Virus 7 in that respect - both have a good degree of talent, but have no songs, and no direction. You're better off checking out Masquerade's previous two records, which are much more musically focused.

Onto Memory Garden....hailing once again from Vikingland (Sweden) this band play a more traditional style of Euro-Gothic, power-metal, much to my liking. Stefan Berglund proves to be an excellent vocalist and the musicians are equally talented. The band write solid, progressive, melodic, power-metal anthems, which seems to be the trend in Europe these days. Reminding me at times of early Queensryche, yet with a more metallic edge, this band is sure to make serious waves in Europe and Japan.

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