Released: 2011, Pure Steel Records
Back in December of 2009, I reviewed Artizan’s three song EP predicting that they would secure a record label for a full length album, and I was not the only critic to state that. That has now come to pass, as Jacksonville Florida’s Artizan, composed of former members of the mid 90’s band Leviathan, offer their debut LP CURSE OF THE ARTIZAN. Founders Ty Tammeus (drums) and singer Tom Braden have replaced lead guitarist Hermanus J. Rombouts with Steffen Robitzsch, otherwise the lineup from the EP remains intact.
Artizan have delivered on the promise of the EP, as CURSE OF THE ARTIZAN contains 8 songs of power metal with progressive inflections, remarkably restrained but far from simplistic. The album cover is a masterwork created by Marc Sasso, whose work also graces albums from Dio and Halford. Contemptuous of current trends, Artizan’s formula is mid-paced melodic metal with a nod to 80s American power metal. “Trade The World” opens the album, representative of the album’s clean production and a good introduction to Tom Braden’s vocals, which are quite similar to Enchant’s Tom Leonard. It would be no stretch to say that Braden steals the show, with comforting, innovative vocals that are confident and reassuring, unlikely to alienate any listeners.
Guitars flow smoothly and brightly, the distortion a polished sheen, with Tammeus being the primary driver of aggression on most of the tracks. “Torment” sounds like something Jigsaw from the Saw franchise would do to you, but it is actually a Sartre-like take on hell being other people, in this case a child having to deal with bullies and an apathetic driver on a school bus. “Fading Story” is a personal favorite, largely because of the accurate resemblance to the best dual guitar harmonies that were present on Crimson Glory’s TRANSCENDENCE. The album concludes with the epic title track, with plenty of riffs and musical sections to firmly place this song in progressive territory.
Artizan are playing a style of metal that no one I have heard recently is able to pull off as successfully as they have. Points of comparisons would be Fates Warning, Enchant, Crimson Glory and old Queensrÿche, from THE WARNING era. Rhythmically, the songs are complex without being note dense and the lyrics are mature and rewarding. Musically, the band is tight and precise with melody being the order of the day. The production is absolutely shining, everything perfectly balanced and discernible with the bass perhaps, not as prominent as I would like. Artizan are on to something worthy here. You may find yourself at times wishing the band would pummel you for a measure or two, but mostly if you enjoy progressive, melodic, and mid-paced metal then make sure you slate CURSE OF THE ARTIZAN for an immediate purchase.