We all have albums in our CD collections that are special to us in many ways and of which we have fond memories. “Manic Impressions” is such an album for me. I got this album a long time ago when I was just getting into the more extreme side Metal and I’ve always held it in high regard. I bought this at a second-hand CD store one cold winter’s day on my way to university and for the first few weeks I didn’t really like this album at all. In fact, I strongly considering giving it away, but alas stuck with it and it paid off big time.
Many people seem to be disillusioned by this album but they are mostly those who expected this album to be in the same vein as the band’s debut (“Suffering Hour”), and they couldn’t make peace with the fact that the band had moved away from their raw Thrash sound (which I also liked BTW) and were starting to carve their own little niche for themselves. This shift in sound was criticized back when this album dropped but over the years this album has, rightfully, come to be regarded as a milestone Progressive Thrash Metal release. Gone are the speedy sections and juvenile aggressive posturing, replaced with more considerate and intricate songwriting emphasizing strangely atonal melodies and a more varied vocal performance, all topped off with a strong Prog Metal sheen. This album will not grab you from the get go and so it will require multiple listens before its qualities will begin to shine through.
The album’s (and indeed this band’s) strongest asset is the otherworldly vocal talents of Ken Nardi. Those who are familiar with the man’s voice know what I’m talking about. He sounds quite unlike anyone else out there and his effortless shifts between harsh and rather high-pitched screams and a hypnotic clean drone absolutely rules. His fellow guitarist, Kevin Heidbreder, seems hell bent to churn out as many seemingly out of place riffs and leads as is humanly possible, while drummer Paul Miles and bassist John Emery form a solid rhythm section. “Paint A Picture” features a rather raw main riff, offset my some soulful singing and a strange yet fitting chorus. The NEW MODEL ARMY cover (“I Love The World”) is another highlight and I can confidently say that the band makes it their own. “Still Black” is one of the heaviest songs they have ever penned and I especially love its screeched chorus and very dark main riff. “Idle Hours” is a bass lover’s wet dream, while the closer, “Far Too Long” features some subtle emotional harmonies and great lyrics to boot. I could basically go on about this album for days, but suffice to say it’s an absolute classic from a much missed band.
The following album, “Screams And Whispers” is almost as good but this one has such a special and sentimental resonance that I cannot but give it the highest possible rating. Don’t mind the naysayers out there – this album deserves to be heard as it really is in a class of its own. Just about everything ‘clicks’ on here, and what a beautiful thing it is!
PS – this album, along with all their other full lengths and demos, can be downloaded at the band’s site for free, so don’t hesitate to get this one! The band needs to be awarded a public service medal for making these gems available to the public…
(Online January 6, 2007)