Cellador - Off the Grid - (9/10)
Published on March 7, 2017
After an 11 year wait, Cellador have finally returned with their sophomore album, Off the Grid. Their debut, Enter Deception, is one of the most celebrated albums in recent power metal history. Over the years, Cellador have gone through many lineup changes as well as relocating to Denver, Colorado and switching to Scarlet Records. At this point, Chris Peterson is the only founding member left with Diego Valdez being the only other member to have played on a studio release. It has been a very long wait for power metal fans and when news of this album broke, the hype built up very quickly. In a situation like this, one question is bound to be asked. Was it worth the wait? In this case, the answer is yes.
There are two distinct styles of power metal, the cheesy, keyboard laden European style and the thrashier, more riff-oriented US style. So where does Cellador fall in the power metal spectrum? The answer is somewhere between the two. Their sound is definitely rooted in ESPM but there are elements of USPM and the result winds up sounding like a mix of the two very different but equally great styles.
The riffs on this album are out in full force as the twin guitar attack of Chris Peterson and Eric Meyers gallops its way through songs like “Shadowfold” and “This Means War.” Although the fantastic power metal gallops are the primary mode of operation for Cellador on this album, they remember to riff hard enough for the heaviness of the riffs to have full effect. This is especially evident on “Sole Survivors” and “This Means War,” both of which have heavy opening riffs. While the former lets up a little to go into gallop mode, the latter never stops riffing. The innovative leads and blistering solos on this album are also excellent, adding value to songs like “Good Enough” and “Swallow Your Pride.” While the gallops are very reminiscent of the high velocity style of early Avantasia and Helloween, the pace on Off the Grid is slightly faster, taking more influence from the thrashier sound of USPM.
As is typical of high-octane power metal, the rhythms on this album are fantastic and bombastic. The one exception to this is the closing track “Running Riot.” This track still contains great hooks, riffs, and solos but it has the added bonus of neat bass lines and comparatively simplistic drumming, showing a hint of pop metal influence. Fortunately for Cellador, it is just a hint and actually adds character to the album.
In comparison with their debut, this album is better produced and also adds a touch of ESPM cheese with Diego’s keyboard lines. Diego turns in a great performance on this record and the band uses him sparingly and wisely. The keyboards replace a little of the neo-classical influence that was present on the debut but it does not subtract from the greatness of this long-awaited sophomore effort. It is merely a slightly different approach to the same overall sound, which is to be expected given the time between releases. Also to be expected is a slight change in vocal style with Chris Peterson having taken over lead vocal duties. Chris sings more in the mid-range than Michael did on the debut so there is less vocal diversity. At the same time though, Michael always sounded a little too much like a carbon copy of the early German style and Chris’ voice stands out more among the fray. His vocal style grooves very nicely with the rest of Cellador’s unique sound and though it is cleaner, he still brings plenty of raw energy to the songs on this album.
At the end of the day, Off the Grid is a tremendous album that will surely wind up on many year-end lists. There are a few noticeable changes in sound from the debut but they only add to the intrigue and overall gloriousness of Cellador’s sound. This album will please longtime fans of the band and hopefully bring in many new fans because this band deserves more attention. This has been a long time coming but it was totally worth the wait. Now if they could just get a stable lineup and make another record in less than six years, all will be right with the world…