Release DetailsLABEL Arise Records
RELEASED ON 3/4/2005
posted on 5/2005 By:
One word: schizophrenic. After giving this disc multiple spins, that word immediately comes to mind. Normally, I'd be ecstatic at the thought that a power metal band sought to defy convention and incorporate outside elements into its work, but here I am thinking Labyrinth, an Italian six-piece with origins dating to 1991, stretched its imagination a bit too far, which is reflected not only in what I can only describe as one of the most horrible covers my precious eyes have ever been subjected to (a mannequin hand-cuffed and facing what looks like a bathroom wall), but in the music as well. Freeman, the group's fifth full-length offering, begins innocently enough, for its first two and a half minutes at least, with some mid-paced riffing and a little synth work on album opener "L.Y.A.F.H." Vocalist Roberto Tiranti sounds unique enough to give the instrumentals a lift but I feel as if the singer is holding back, for better or worse I don't know. When he hits the high notes and sings, "In the corner of my mind!" in the chorus it makes me think that when the singer holds back on the high notes on the rest of the track it's for the worse, as the chorus really shines above all else in this track. At the 2:40 mark, guitarist Andrea Cantarelli throws the listener for an unexpected and unfortunate loop when he produces a riff-feedback-riff formula that sounds eerily close to an unspeakable genre of metal that we have all grown to hate; nu-metal. This is a prime example of this group's case of schizophrenia, as its pulling too much from all too wrong of sources. I could understand incorporating elements of traditional heavy metal that better fit established power conventions, but the down-tuned fret work that Labyrinth borrows from nu-metal sounds awkward when placed between clean power riffs. The pace begins to pick up on the third track, "Dive in Open Waters," which, unlike a large portion of the album, seems bound in convention. The vocalist hits more high notes than usual, which is sad, because I had begun to believe in his ability to belt out the ball-squeezers until I sensed a weakness in his voice here. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I'd rather hear a song like the album opener, which, though it faultered when delving into the down-tuned, experimented a bit more in terms of genres. "Dive in Open Waters" is a lyrically and instrumentally monotonous track that does nothing to sway non-believers into the power metal camp, which is something this genre desperately needs. Labyrinth works best as a group when all members encourage each other to experiment with restraint, as heard best on "M3," the album's fifth track. The synth work here serves to enhance the song rather than distract the listener from the greater good. Tiranti does, however, attempt to stretch a few lines out in what I can only assume is a stab at injecting some variation, resulting in some stretches of awkwardness where the vocals don't exactly match the tempo of the instrumentals. That said, this is the best track on the album. There are moments when the vocalist softens his voice and I want to freeze those moments because they work so well here and are non-existent on the rest of the album. Even the voice-over sampling that occurs at the 2:40 mark can be forgiven, as it's succeeded by a solo that leads into the excellent chorus. As an album closer, "Meanings" is effective, as it wraps up the established theme of not knowing universal truths while playing with power metal conventions at the same time: "Black - My ink is flowin' from my pen. I should tell ya about a lost love or dragon's tale. I found, if you have no words to say, don't say nothing and it's ok!" A little hokey, I'll admit, but for whatever reason it worked for me. Labyrinth doesn't take itself too seriously, which is a virtue in a genre that often times tries to convince listeners that they should care about dungeons, dragons, and any other topic that easily fits into Dork 101. Reminding me of a watered down version of German power thrashers Vanden Plas, Labyrinth are a pleasurable listen but I am afraid I won't be visiting this too frequently. If you're a die-hard power metal aficionado whose turn-ons include bits of shoddy english over servicable, although at times schizophrenic, riffs, then Labyrinth's Freeman is right up your lonely alley. Don't get me wrong. This five-piece band explores some interestingly progressive territory, but ultimately, this release is just another power blip on the radar.
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