posted on 5/2006 By:
For years Finland has been the fertile breeding grounds for champions of countless styles of metal. In fact, the country’s delivered genre defining bands of such strong measures, many lesser-known (yet equally deserving) bands have been eclipsed and left virtually unnoticed by the metal community at large. No stronger case could be made than for Finnish power metal act, Tarot. Heard of ‘em? It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you haven’t. Hell, I can’t remember the last time I saw an album from them in the United States, but they’ve been around since 1986 and have consistently released excellent traditional heavy metal albums since their inception. Obviously this isn’t a review of Tarot, so before I trail too far off on a tangent, I’ll just go ahead and make my point. Tarot has quietly been influencing countless numbers of fresh, new Finnish power metal acts, and you can certainly count the impressive Manitou amongst them. My hope is that this young band won’t spend the next 20 years unnoticed, or under the shadow of Finland's Three S’s- Sonata Arctica, Sinergy and Stratovarius.
I remember reading quite a bit of press regarding Manitou’s debut, 2004’s Mad Moon Rising, pinning it immediately on my ever-increasing list of ‘bands to seek out’ in my back pocket. I never actually found the album, but from what I gathered it was a proggier endeavor in comparison to this latest offering. In fact, since releasing Mad Moon Rising, the band has apparently dropped the keyboard player all together and opted for a more traditional power metal sound on Deadlock, and despite some of the records’ hard rock injections, I’d say the mission is certainly accomplished.
Deadlock incorporates a number of different traditional metal elements throughout its 11 solid tracks, with the majority of the record following an uplifting structure packed full of hearty riffs, brilliantly played leads, and incredibly catchy chorus’. “And The Silence Bites”, “Fools In Control”, and “Psychoracer”, all hit with a fatter, heavier riff structure, while “Waste, Damnation”, and “The State of Mind” travel a more mid-paced path, and feature some of the most melodic guitar work I’ve heard from a power metal act this year. Track 6, “Swallowing The Dark”, stands as the albums’ only slow number, and nicely spotlights the excellent vocals of Markku Pihlaja. He has a strong, mid-range voice that’s reminiscent of Lost Horizon/Heed vocalist Daniel Heiman, but without trying to nail any ear piercing, wailing screams. Deadlock also mixes in some hard rock flavorings with “Black Burning Flame”, and “Lead A Wild Ride”, with the slightly odd intro to “Black Burning Flame” actually being a full on blues riff (something that came across rather strangely, in my opinion). The last two tracks close things out beautifully and hold some of the albums’ more memorable moments. The instrumental 10th track, “Black Meadow”, has a fantastic, infectious riff pattern, and bends into some proggier elements as it seamlessly flows into the epic 9minute closing title track – a song that again showcases Manitou's excellent traditional metal songcrafting, delivered with top-notch musicianship.
Fans of Masterplan, Nocturnal Rites, or fellow countrymen Kiuas (also sadly underappreciated) should definitely put these guys on their ‘to investigate further’ lists. Deadlock has left me duly impressed, and certainly rekindles my desire to find the bands' debut release. Solid power metal.
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