Released: 2006, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
It was inevitable, wasn’t it? When the U.K.’s power-metal-on-speed punters Dragonforce signed with Roadrunner Records earlier this year, there had to be another band show up similar in the vein of a hyper-velocity Helloween/Iron Maiden and sure enough, along comes Cellador from, of all places, Omaha, Nebraska! The band members are all in their late teens and early twenties and have only been together as a band since summer 2004. Metal Blade took a chance on the group—the label’s first power metal signing in years—based on their 2005 demo, LEAVING ALL BEHIND, and after listening to the quintet’s full-length debut, ENTER DECEPTION, it’s no surprise what caught MB head honcho Brian Slagel’s ear. Boasting tight, melodic dual guitar leads and riffs, powerful vocals and a galloping rhythm section, Cellador has clearly studied their European power metal, save the lyrics about elves, dragons and other such nonsense. Helloween, Iron Maiden, Stratovarius, Lost Horizon and Edguy are all clear influences but, like Dragonforce, Cellador cranks things up to eleven on the speedometer that, along with the high-pitched vocals, will surely have many listeners divided. The musicianship is phenomenal however the pacing of things can be a bit much, even at the album’s relatively brisk 45 minutes. Erik Rutan handles production and considering his forte is typically death metal, he has done a very good job at bringing out the best possible sound of the band. Truth be told, there isn’t a lowlight or a bad song to be found on ENTER DECEPTION but the big obstacle that faces Cellador in North America (besides the TERRIBLE choice of a band name) is to overcome the stigma of power metal and not be relegated to “novelty” status.
Right off the bat, the guitar team of Bill Hudson and band founder Chris Petersen make their presence known with a stunning arpeggio intro to “Leaving All Behind.” Rolling along on speedy riffs, track after track is blessed with memorable passages that are delivered with pinpoint accuracy and executed perfectly. Petersen’s dizzying leads on “Seen Through Time” and the Maiden-ish “Never Again” are so fast yet so spot-on, it is remarkable. Likewise, Hudson and Petersen pull off riffs that are instantly memorable but at the same time, immediately hearken back to Iron Maiden (“Never Again,” “No Chances Lost”) and Helloween (“A Sign Far Beyond”). Michael Gremio’s vocals will be hit-and-miss for many people. Coming straight from the Bruce Dickinson/Michael Kiske/Andy Deris school of high-pitched wails and over-the-top vocal histrionics, this style is definitely an acquired taste and is often the final nail in the coffin for most detractors of power metal. Still, most people will know this going in and for what he does, Gremio has a hell of a set of pipes hitting impossibly high highs and is able to hold difficult notes on tracks such as “Leaving All Behind,” the scream that opens “Never Again” and the Helloween-like “Wakening.” David Dahir abuses the double bass pedal from start to finish, really letting it rip on “Seen Through Time” while his blastbeats on “Wakening” could make death metal’s greatest skinsmen blush. At certain points, the drumming is so fast, it almost sounds programmed but as far as I can tell, Dahir’s hands and feet are responsible for everything heard here…and he is only 17 years old!
If there was one thing to pick at, it would be the length of the songs. With only eight tracks averaging almost six minutes apiece, the argument could be made that there could be some trimming done to make the songs stronger and more concise but at the same time, there is never a point that things seem to drag, either. The band refrains from wanking away for any extended periods but the hyperactive speed does become a little difficult to sit through, but, again, this is the style.
ENTER DECEPTION is a real surprise on so many levels but at its roots, this is an album that the American market NEEDS to hear because, as clear as the band wears its influences on its sleeve, the deluge of metalcore has left bands like Cellador as more of an anachronistic novelty on these shores. 3 Inches of Blood was faced with the same “Are these guys serious?” question because of their classic style but it should be a punishable crime that music like this needs to be relegated to those fans across the pond (case in point: New York’s Manowar plays to crowds of 20,000 in Europe but can’t fill a 1,000-seat club in North America). Cellador can hold their heads high in knowing that they have given ample respect to their power metal forefathers on this CD. Stellar musicianship, killer vocals, top-notch production—all the pieces are in place for this to make those year-end “best of” lists. ENTER DECEPTION is truly a breakout album in the waiting and absolutely essential to any fan of heavy metal.
KILLER KUTS: All!!