Tad Morose - Chapter X - (9/10)
Published on February 25, 2019
These Older Ways Are Strong Yet Again.
Being at the forefront of a particular niche in the metal world can be a blessing and a curse, the former usually manifests in getting the recognition of doing things a given way before it became fashionable, the latter downside being that when it becomes a movement it will eventually start to be diluted by cheap imitation. By the late 90s when the power metal style achieved a complete renaissance, it wasn’t all just about high fantasy exploits and freewheeling through the cosmos on the coattails of Judas Priest’s Painkiller, as there were a small contingent of bands that took on a darker and more sinister tone that dovetailed with the groove-infused sound that the same purveyors of British steel ushered in with Tim “Ripper” Owens at the helm. Much of the credit to pioneering this approach goes to Sweden’s own Tad Morose when Urban Breed took the mic, after a brief stint as a progressive metal outfit with Kristian Andrén (who ironically also had a brief stint in Bloodbound after Urban Breed left) at the fore, infusing occasional helpings of nimbler speed metal and dense doom metal influenced aesthetics to complement this new power metal synthesis. Following a sting of successful albums in 2003, it all went dark for this outfit and others such as France’s Nightmare, Cryonic Temple, Steel Attack and Bloodbound attempted albums in a similar style with varying degrees of success.
About ten years later with the vocalist who brought a similar stylistic vibe to this outfit to Steel Attack, otherwise known as Daniel Heiman’s slightly grittier doppelganger Ronny Hemlin, this outfit set about rekindling the old magic. Though the previous efforts were marred by a lack of cohesion, the potential was definitely present from the get go, and with the release of Chapter X, that potential has been unleashed with a passionate fervor in similar territory to the likes of Matters Of The Dark and Modus Vivendi. The thudding grooves, creepy keyboard backdrops, soaring guitar solos and most of all, the melodramatic yet in control vocal gymnastics are all in place, culminating in a colossal blast of sonic darkness and rage that packs the punch of a thousand fists. Early on in his time in Steel Attack, many speculated that Hemlin to be the prime candidate to fill Heiman’s shoes in the now virtually defunct icon of the power metal revival Lost Horizon, and the performance that he brings to this album is the long awaited revival of that vocal character, free of the overdone ravings and forced harshness that would often hamstring his upper range and give him an unintentionally comical character (see his work on Steel Attack’s Carpe DiEnd). Combined with an even longer running time and larger collection of concise songs, this is the gift that just keeps on giving.
As with any Tad Morose offering, there is naturally a wide array of expressions with their spectrum of auditory darkness, running the gamut between nuanced and mid-paced crushers and high octane thrill rides. One of the more jarring moves into traditional territory is the mid-paced “Masquerader”, which almost has a Hammerfall-like vibe to it and wears the old school heavy metal sound right on its shirt-sleeve. A fairly similar brand of slow-paced traditionalism emerges in a somewhat darker feel emerges in “Come Morpheus”, while “Leviathan Rise” hits the dank, doom-driven gloom that one might ordinarily associate with the slower material on Sabbath’s Dehumanizer or Dio’s subsequent similar offering Strange Highways, with a few added death barks to intensify the darkness factor. On the faster end of things is a sort of progressive thrasher with a hint of Nevermore-influences in “Nemesis” that grinds through heavy riffs with a vengeance, while “Deprived Of Light” cruises with a bit more of a Helloween-like vibe, albeit interpreted into their heavier aesthetic and listening more along the lines of The Dark Ride. But when all is said and done, the point where everything just falls totally into place is the high octane speed metal fury ride “Turn To Dust”, which somehow manages to take the signature approach reserved to Primal Fear and make it heavier.
This is the first time in more than a decade that any band has managed to hit total pay dirt playing this style, and there has been a fair degree of lackluster material that has tried to tread this same night-stricken path within what some may consider the lightest sub-genre of metal. It perfectly translates that eclectic approach to riff work and feel that the band originally translated from their progressive metal roots into something that has a massive degree of staying power, all the while also satisfying the accessibility factor and moderate time length needed to draw in those who normally only go for this sort of heavy-ended, chunky production sound when heard out of the likes of Dream Evil and other acts produced by or otherwise associated with Fredrik Nordstrom. It’s an album that will definitely enjoy favorable reception among those who enjoy the concise and varied character of the more AOR-tinged offerings out of the likes of Masterplan and Nocturnal Rites, while being geared a bit more towards the darker and meaner offerings heard out of Mystic Prophecy and Brainstorm. Here is to hoping that Chapter Xwill not be the last chapter in the Tad Morose autobiography, and that this is the approach that they continue to stick with in the coming years.