Madness Of War
posted on 5/2010 By:
It is not often that I review power metal albums, as my knowledge of and tolerance for the style is limited. As I grow older, though, I find myself becoming slightly more accepting of a genre I once scorned bitterly. I suppose I no longer see the heaviness of the music I listen to as some sort of testament to length and virility of my manhood. (I have guns for that now.) At any rate, the Cruz Del Sur label is home to both Slough Feg and Crescent Shield, two bands whose work I enjoy very much. So, in hopes that Overmaster might match the quality of its label mates, I elected to review the band’s debut album Madness of War.
In the power metal spectrum, Overmaster’s sound definitely leans more towards the “power” end as opposed to “flower” end. The band does feature a keyboard player, but Overmaster must have had the good sense and good taste to lock him in the broom closet for most of the recording, as his presence is not overbearing. Guitarist Pino Sicari serves as the band’s driving musical force. Sicari’s playing is heavily thrash-influenced, as evidenced by tracks such as “Spartan Warriors,” “Overlord” and “Prophet of War,” which feature riffs that would not sound out of place on an Exodus album. Elsewhere on the album, some surprisingly un-power metal sounds crop up: “Jungle of Madness,” for instance, features a positively evil sounding intro reminiscent of Slayer’s “Seasons in the Abyss,” and the opening of “Marble King” sports the kind of mechanized shredding one would expect from Necrophagist. Sicari receives solid support from the band’s rhythm section of bassist Dimitri Oldani and drummer Carlos Cantatore, who match Sicari’s riffs with equally tight and heavy-handed playing.
For me, the vocal performance usually makes or breaks a power metal album. In the case of Overmaster’s vocalist Gus Gabarro, his performance certainly does not break the album, but I cannot say that it makes it either. Gabarro is certainly a good singer: he possesses a decent range and power; he can carry a tune; he never gets shrieky; and he is even able to muster a little grit and snarl for some of the album's heavier moments. The main problem is that Gabarro just plain lacks the “it” factor that separates a great vocalist from good one -- call it charisma, call it character, call it what you will. It doesn't help that, as adventurous as the band can be, when Gabarro opens his mouth, the music tends to shift into simpler, more predictable riffs and chord progressions, especially in the choruses. Furthermore -- and as a person who spent considerable time in his youth mastering every nuance of Max Cavalera’s unique vocal styling so as to deliver a perfect rendition of “Arise”, I must say that I feel like a complete prick for leveling this criticism -- Gabarro’s heavy accent detracts somewhat from the effectiveness of his performance.
In the end, I have to say that Overmaster does not quite measure up to Slough Feg or Crescent Shield, but Madness of War is still a solid album. I doubt it will convert any of power metal's detractors, but for those who favor some of the genre’s heavier acts such as Iced Earth and Mystic Prophecy, Overmaster is worth a listen.
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