IMAGIKA is a band that has been around for nearly 20 years and has remained stylistically very consistent. And being one that came about at the height of the decline of the art that we all know as Heavy Metal circa 1993, they are miraculously untouched by most of the characteristics that define 90s American Thrash Metal practices. The hypnotically repetitive chug riffs, the pseudo-tough guy vocal posturing with latent Grunge tendencies, the over-processed and mechanical sounding guitar distortion, and the general notion of just being pissed off for the mere sake of it are not to be found here. There are maybe some occasional references to the better aspects of NEVERMORE here and there, but for the most part this is a good balance of traditional Thrash and USPM influences that are reinterpreted through a modern production.
To put it bluntly, “Portrait Of A Hanged Man” is a loosely methodical but otherwise complex exercise in riff bludgeoning, so much so that it actually overdose things a bit. There have been a number of bands to come out of the Bay Area in the past that exhibited a somewhat similar sound, but here IMAGIKA seems hell bent on piling as many riffs as possible into each song, in somewhat of a progressive fashion. Even within the confines of a single section there is so many varying parts that things get pretty hard to follow. In similar fashion, vocalist Norman Skinner does his damnedest to sound like a veritable jack of all trades, throwing in a mishmash of dirty shouts, Halford-like wails, Warrel Dane bellows and even a handful of Death Metal barks to further throw things into sheer pandemonium.
With all the elements considered, this is the sort of album that is fun to listen to, but isn’t quite catchy or memorable enough to fully realize its own potential. Certain songs such as “Keep The Wolves At Bay” and “My Final Hour” are a bit easier to follow and closer to actual songs rather than a full out display of how many ways the guitarist can pummel the ears in a five-minute duration. “A God No More” is the only thing on here that is overtly catchy, and it’s a mostly acoustic ballad and instrumental which features some fancy lead work out of KING DIAMOND axe man Andy La Rocque. “The Hit” is also a fairly solid song, albeit a bit heavy on differing ideas, and actually comes the closest to actually accenting the Power Metal side of their Power/Thrash style.
While somewhat flawed, even the weaker elements of this album are worthy of listening to, it’s just a tiny bit overdone, almost like a steak that has been cooking just a few minutes too long on the grill. This is something that is worthy of the time of most people who ate up the riff madness of the 80s Bay Area scene and were still okay with the rebirths of returning bands such as DEATH ANGEL and TESTAMENT over the past couple of years. Sadly, after a good 17 year run maintaining a once thought dead art form, IMAGIKA self-destructed and is now relegated to the pages of Thrash history. Nevertheless, this is a band whose work should be given a second look, though this album should probably be the third or fourth pick of newcomers.
(Online April 2, 2011)