The Darkest Room
posted on 3/2010 By:
"Dr. Jonathan Chase -- master of the secrets that divide man from animal, animal from man...MANIMAL!!"
FADE IN: Midnight -- lamp-light reflects off the wet, inky streets recently swept by a cold October rain. Three officers gather around the latest victim in a series of serial murders inconsiderately dumped into one of the city's many dead-end alleyways.
A fiery Detective Brooke Mackenzie stormily paces as he shouts into his phone.
Detective Brooke Mackenzie: "Damnit, Jonathan, you're supposed to be helping us with these murders! What's gotten into you lately?!? If I don't see you or some beastly form of you in the next twenty minutes, we're gonna need to have a serious man-to-Manimal discussion!"
Dr. Jonathan Chase: "Sorry, Chief, but the only animal I'll be morphing into from here on out is a Heavy Metal Maniac! YOU CAN'T CAGE THE POWER METAL PANTHER!! WAAAAAAAAAAHHHhhhRAAWWRRrr!!"
Detective Brooke Mackenzie: "WTF???"
NBC's unbelievably short-lived "shape-shifting crime solver" series may have only survived three months nearly 25-years ago, but the show's absurd premise and über level of käse certainly left a deep scar on a lot of folks. Anyone old enough to watch TV in the early 80's is likely to have been clawed by this man-turned-manimal "drama," and it's undoubtedly one of the first things that will pop into those peoples' heads if this review hits their rods 'n' cones at some point. It's unfortunate, really, because despite the rather frivolous name, these Swede's have honestly churned out one hell of an infectious slab of extremely European power metal. They ain't exactly re-inventing the wheel (the Hellowheel?), but if you count yourself a fan of bands such as Primal Fear, Iron Savior, Gamma Ray, Heed, Lost Horizon and others of their ilk, I'd say The Darkest Room definitely deserves your attention.
You'll notice I'm emphasizing a rather specific branch of power metal here as well. There's a "bounce" and a brightness to these tunes that's definitely prone to putting off power metaller's who tend only to jump into pools inhabited by the more U.S./Iced Earth variety. And if you're not a fan of the real screamers, the wailers, the shriekers behind the mic, you should probably let Manimal pass on by. But for those of us who appreciate the Kai Hansen's, Ralf Scheepers' and Daniel Heiman's (probably the closest similarity) of our realm, you're gonna be mightily impressed with Manimal's Samuel Nyman; this dude can fuckin' wail, and does so on each and every tune on The Darkest Room.
Surrounding the baying Nyman are three other dudes quite proficient in their wares as well. While some might argue the band would benefit from an additional guitarist, I find it rather refreshing to have a big portion of The Darkest Room's heaviness delivered courtesy of the brotherly duo behind the bass and drum-kit. And while I wouldn't exactly say this album has the most memorable or vicious riffs this side of the Walls of Jericho, guitarist Hank Stenroos does a great job of filling the minutes with loads of delightfully melodic fret-play. So, no, this isn't exactly the heaviest European power metal act I've heard in recent years, but what they lack in malice they more than make up for by delivering tight and incredibly infectious songwriting. Whether it be the more bouncy Helloween flare of "Dreamers and Fools," the more rollicking Maiden-isms of "Human Nature," or the darker, more brooding cuts like "The Life We Lived," "Spinegrinder" and the excellent self-titled track (all of which bring to mind a more modern version of Rage for Order), The Darkest Room delivers without a true sour grape in the bunch.
2010 is shaping up to be a great year for power metal fans. With new albums on the horizon from bands such as Wuthering Heights and Masterplan (Jørn's back!) alongside unexpected gems such as this and the soon-to-be-reviewed Dofka, we've honestly got a lot to smile about. And If you're like me and feel as though the power metal draught has been waaaay too long, I'd advise you chalk up the ironic Manimal name to a slight language barrier and get to the business of getting your European power metal itch summarily scratched.
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