For most who've delved into the world of Italian Power Metal, LABYRINTH is one of names most often dropped, and for good reason. A good 3-4 years before the meshing of progressive elements from FATES WARNING in with the speedy melodic Power Metal of HELLOWEEN became an established wing of said scene thanks to the efforts of SECRET SPHERE and VISION DIVINE, an album was put out under the LABYRINTH moniker featuring future RHAPSODY OF FIRE front man Fabio Lione, who would later collaborate with principle songwriter Olaf Thorsten upon the formation of VISION DIVINE, and thus one of the earliest examples of a new generation of European Power Metal was born.
Much like any first ditch effort at resurrecting a thought to be defunct style, there's a fair amount of appeal to the past found in here, thus what ends up coming about has a good bit more in common with the 80s oriented early works of STRATOVARIUS, along with obvious nods to 80s FATES WARNING and early DREAM THEATER. The result is an album that is heavily laced with keyboards and occasionally exhibits a sort of Techno character thanks to the input of short-time keyboardist Ken Taylor (who ended up going into synth pop after this album), but largely listens like a concentrated fit of high speed glory not all that dissimilar to GAMMA RAY circa 1990, particularly insofar as "Mortal Sin" is concerned during it's cliché major key chorus section.
In actuality, a good case could be argued that this album should have been put under the VISION DIVINE moniker since it has a bit more in common with said band's debut than it does with "Return To Heaven Denied" or anything else that came after it, and not only because of Fabio's vocal work. There is a general feel of introspection and intellectual fervor about this album meshed with fantasy that is more in line with the first couple albums out of Olaf's other project, and also a general affinity with that of mid 80s FATES WARNING. It's a bit less stuck on the sort of nostalgic emotionalism and romanticism that generally dominate LABYRINTH’S work (not counting the awful modernized Prog. debacles "Freeman" and the mediocre "6 Days To Nowhere").
As stated previously, while loaded up with a bit more electronic gimmicks, "No Limits" is probably the closest that this band ever got to embodying the GAMMA RAY and STRATOVARIUS brands of traditional and melodic Power Metal, and it shows pretty blatantly on several songs. The aforementioned "Mortal Sin" could be likened to a more keyboard oriented answer to "Lust For Life" off the GAMMA RAY debut, while "Dreamland" could just about be mistaken for a number of mid 90s mid-tempo songs out of STRATOVARIUS like "The Kiss Of Judas". But even more intricate than the songwriting and technical showmanship out of the guitars and keyboards (which are at least as fancy if not more so than the follow up album) is Fabio's vocal performance, which is less operatic compared to his work with RHAPSODY OF FIRE and, at times, close to a traditional 80s sleaze sound on some of his higher notes.
Though this album generally manifests as a different creature than everything that came after it, there are occasional hints at where this band would end up after Rob Tiranti replaced Lione. Most of these instances of musical foreshadowing occur on the more balladic songs where the late 80s FATES WARNING influences are at their most blatant. The title song "No Limits" literally sounds like it could have been a B-side of "Perfect Symmetry" and also has some of the subtle IRON MAIDEN melodic elements that later came into play on "Return To Heaven Denied". Along with a few other straight forward songs like "Piece Of Time" and the speeding fury of "Vertigo", these songs all but listen like a 0.5 version of what came out a couple years later, complete with the melancholy character that cuts against the general feel of fantasy that otherwise dominates this album, not to mention utilizing the signature Rain vs. Thorsten shredding sections that has since become a staple of the band's sound.
I might be going out on a bit of a limb on this one, but I'd argue that "No Limits" edges out "Sons Of Thunder" for the second best album ever put out by this band. It has the edge mostly for being far better produced, having that punchy, reverb heavy drum sound that made their sophomore album listen with the same feeling of massiveness. This is the album that is likely most directly responsible for inspiring SECRET SPHERE’S magnum opus "A Time Never Come" 5 years later, as well as the blueprint that eventually churned out an impressive collection of Power/Prog. albums out of VISION DIVINE. It's unfortunate that in recent times this album has been overshadowed by all the previously mentioned opuses, but every impressive storm begins with a lone crack of thunder, and this one was deafening enough to precede a category 4 storm.
(Online August 5, 2013)