Mandrake (The End)
by Scott Hefflon
I don’t recall singer Tobias Sammet sounding so much like Bruce Dickenson on the previous three recs, nor that supergroup side project he did, Avantasia, but if yer gonna sound like someone, Bruce is a better model than most. The gutsy vocals give the often skippy-light classic heavy metal style a much-needed kick, though these Germans actually fill out the front of their tight trousers quite well, if ya know what I’m saying. When the drums thunder and the duel guitar leads race across the heavens in the Helloweenish “Save Us Now,” not only do you watch the breakneck course with admiration, you eye the horizon for storm clouds. (That means the thunder thunders, ok?) Even as the melodies lock arms with brothers in metal and bellow anthems of praise to the godz of beer and booty, wine and wenches, or whatever the hell they’re grinning about, it’s not sap, ya know? And some songs – “Tears of the Mandrake,” “All the Clowns,” and “Painting on the Wall” – honestly, these could be the logical extension of, ahem, Slaughter and all that pop metal stuff. Hard to say that without giving the willies to all the people I’d like to interest in this, as well as accidentally giving hope to the tenacious losers who’ve finally realized Aerosmith has been rewriting the same two song structures (“sleazy” and “ballad”) for two decades. Simply put, it’s got pop metal sing-a-long, but with layers of barrel-chested, Bruce-like warbling and enough Helloween/Gamma Ray/Stratovarious production to not suck. And the kinda girlie songs are quickly followed by rapidfire attacks, just so you don’t get the urge to go pick flowers for your hair or something.
(556 S. Fair Oaks Ave. #101-111 Pasadena, CA 91105)