That the band history of Italian LABYRINTH never has been the calmest most of you should already know. Before the self titled, altogether fourth complete album they shook themselves up quite a bit again, because with Olaf Thörsen the main songwriter of the band suddenly lost himself from the band. Many bands would easily call it quits after something like that, but in this case they decided to re-boot under the old name.
Not only Olaf is gone, but also the pseudonyms, which I had thought ridiculous ever since the beginnings, and also style wise they reoriented themselves a bit, the former spearhead of Italian Power/Speed Metal has turned a good bit more progressive and less catchy, which is a rather unusual step, because financially they surely have not chosen the more promising way.
So can the quintet make us forget the rather weak "Sons Of Thunder" and return to the heights of their so far best album "Return To Heaven Denied"? The answer is a clear "yes and no". "Labyrinth" definitely is better than "Sons Of Thunder", but they definitely cannot reach their second album. That the songs are not as catchy as before is not the reason in my opinion, because I think that the step towards the a bit more complex song structures is a good one indeed, because they manage to differ from many other bands. It is rather the fact that on this album something is not running on 100%.
It's no big things that do not fully fit into the puzzle, but minor parts, which in the course of the 52 minutes just add up to leave a light bitter aftertaste. But let's start at the beginning. "The Prophet" is not that far away from their earlier sound, very catchy, the following "Livin' In A Maze" already is bulking a bit more while entering your ears, sounds good, while "This World" tries to hit into the same curb, but falls short in terms of accessibility.
"Just Soldier (Stay Down)" then bears a surprisingly thrashy note, while "Neverending Rest" takes it down two or three notches, a relaxed piano accompanier semi ballad, followed by the LABYRINTH-typical catchiness and power of "Terzinato" and "Slave To The Night", especially the latter, before "Synthetic Paradise" brings back an element that LABYRINTH had on each of their albums so far: A mix of Power/Speed Metal and a few technoid elements as well as some acoustic passages, good song, no question! "Hand In Hand" falls short of this achievement, but the closing ballad "When I Will Fly Far" bears a lot of emotions in itself, forming a very nice and moody closing to an album that also has a powerful and very clear (at times almost too clear) sound and a very interesting cover by Travis Smith.
The little problems that I had mentioned are for one the not always flowing song structures, whose light progressiveness at times overshadows the flow and functionality of the songs and on the other hand Roberto Tiranti definitely has a damn good voice, but it fits best with the Power Metal songs, once it gets more progressive or, as in the case of "Just Soldier (Stay Down)", even thrashy, then he remains a bit too much in the higher regions and lacks a bit of power.
Altogether still a big progression compared to "Sons Of Thunder" and still a recommendable album to all, who also like a bit more demanding and less happy melodies. (Online August 13, 2003)