See, one of the best things about this whole thing here is that you get the chance to unearth gemstones you would have never found otherwise. Wisconsin's THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE definitely fall into this category and their pretty misleading self-given style description would almost have led me to disregard them, what in hindsight would have been a grave mistake.
Now I don't know, why they call themselves Progressive Thrash Metal, but normally this would not appeal to me at all, yet for some odd reason I wanted to listen into this disc and the first song captured me right away, so a good thing that I gave in to this urge. I can partly understand, though, why the band could not really describe itself fittingly, as the quartet from Madison computes several different styles that make it extremely hard, if not impossible to pin the band down in one spot, just so much - the style I probably hear least in here is Thrash...
Anyways, there are a few simple elements that I can point out straight away as defining factors for the THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE's sound: the excellent guitar work from Brian Koenig, the very varied and dynamic song writing and the great voice of front woman Mary Zimmer, who has an excellent clear voice, but also can switch to Gossow-like growls in a heartbeat, with the clear vocals in the vast majority, though.
I had mentioned the opener "Anemic World" and it is a true killer, with arpeggiated guitars at the beginning and end, tight riffing and rhythm section, excellent clear vocals, some accentuating growls, both fast and slow, heavy sections, harmony solo, with dynamics to die for and melodies that will stick to your memory in an instant, many established bands would kill for an opener such as this one! And after that the Americans show that they are not a one-trick pony either, with "Demon Twin" being almost pure traditional Heavy/Power Metal, once more with great vocals, "Ottoman Empire" getting a little more intricate, "Wrathshot" being a good bit heavier and with a bigger Death Metal growl share and "One If By Sea" being the epic song of the album, with great dynamics and atmosphere, so this is some serious stuff here!
"The Mercenary" clocks in at more than 12 minutes, while "Vendetta" is an a lot straighter Heavy/Power Metal song in the traditional sense, but with some added Death Metal vocals and at the end we still have the title track, which starts out like pure 80s MAIDEN and then branches out a little, still keeping the same foundation, though.
Add to that a balanced and transparent production, a nice visual side and you have an album of a band, which should have the labels lined up in front of their door with contract offers, because as long as bands like this come out of the US underground, I know that the scene still has a bright future ahead of itself!
(Online January 17, 2007)