The Shadow Cabinet (2 Discs)
posted on 2/2007 By:
I’ve always had a particular affinity for gloomy music. Even as a wee-lad, I most often found myself moved when immersed within particularly dire melodies. It’s undoubtedly the reason why my path has bent towards doom and despondent black metal today, and it’s also a sound argument as to why many cheerful European power metal acts sail right above my head. Triumphant metal, on the other hand, is something I find myself enjoying immensely, and is a product I’d consider to be quite a different beast compared to straight-up ‘happy metal’. Give me Manowar’s “Revelation”, Riot’s “Outlaw”, or Amorphis’ “To Father’s Cabin”, for example, and you’ll see my eyes light up and my lips curl to a grin much the same way I’d imagine some folks piss their breeches in excitement over Edguy’s “Lavatory Love Machine”.
That being said, Denmark’s Wuthering Heights has delivered unto us a genuinely triumphant album with, The Shadow Cabinet. Yes, this record is loaded to the gills with the kind of fast-paced Euro-metal that’s bound to turn many metalheads’ frowns upside down and deem it ‘happy’, but within nearly every track, there is a truly triumphal element woven deep within the core as well. It may seem improbable, but “Demon Desire”, “Beautifool”, “Faith”, “Envy”, “Snow”, “Sleep”, “I Shall Not Yield”, and “Carpe Noctem – Seize the Night” would all serve as fitting, victorious closers to a power metal album. That’s eight out of ten tunes striking with the kind of exultation normally roused only by classic closers such as Abigail’s “Black Horsemen”. Certainly no easy task, but Wuthering Heights seem able to do so as if it were second nature.
Beyond the arrant elements of compelling, triumphant Euro-power metal with prog flavorings, there are scores of other ingredients making this effort worthy of your attention as well. For example, there are moments when The Shadow Cabinet is surprisingly heavy and absolutely galloping with electric vigor: most notably on the incredible, “Faith – Apathy Divine Part I”, and the excellent follow-up, “Envy”. These two spectacular tunes alone are easily worth the price of admission, and both flash moments of riffs so surprisingly dense and stout, they’ll surely prompt elbow-swinging fiends to hone in on bespectacled prog-metallers unsuspectingly drifting on the outskirts of pits during live performances. However, the brazen Irish-jigged-camaraderie that also steeps these two tunes, as well as the beer-hall-soaked anthem in the midst of the albums slowest number, “Sleep”, will surely patch any remaining grievances between both parties in favor of sharing a drink side-by-side at the bar.
Throw in the fact that a gold star for musicianship can unequivocally be delivered to all parties involved, and the fact that Nils Patrik Johansson’s vocal performance is nothing short of amazing (think of a slightly higher registered Ronnie James Dio), and you’d think there couldn’t possibly be anything left to praise on this record. Not so, my friends. I think I’d do The Shadow Cabinet a disservice if I didn’t mention the excellent lyrical content found here as well. While not exactly a concept record, the theme focuses on a man who’s obviously reflecting on the many seemingly unavoidable burdens life deals us all through the simple act of living - questions of faith, conformity, social caste, and dealing with one’s own selfish desires, for example. By the time we hit the sixth track, “Snow”, he’s ready to give in and let himself melt away into nothingness, but the quiet refuge of sleep, and the start of a new day brings the protagonist a new, brighter perspective; one that realizes and accepts the fact that we alone are responsible for our destinies, and that surrendering is not actually an option. By the time the triumphant closer, “Carpe Noctem – Seize the Night”, rolls in, one cannot help but be filled with feelings of hope and newfound optimism.
It would be nearly impossible to absorb the full scope of this work in just one or two sittings. Over the course of the past few weeks, this exceedingly triumphant, exquisitely crafted, deeply textured record has definitely grown roots into the very marrow of my bones, and I have a feeling I’ll likely find reason to revisit it to the day my dried husk is cast to the winds. The Shadow Cabinet should be considered required listening for fans of power metal, and is certainly worth your immediate attention.
Note: the double version of this album from the good folks at Sensory boasts a second disc that features the band’s 2004 performance at the Atlanta ProgPower festival. Three of the members had just joined the band, and in the words of the band members themselves, it is not something to be considered “professionally conceived and executed”, but more for diehard fans and those who were actually present that day. It’s pretty rough around the edges, and will not likely find its way into my player very often.
Register to post comments.