Released: 2005, Mausoleum Records
Another Imagika album, another 5/5! The band that I first got into with their self-titled album way back in 1997 continues to blaze a trial to thrash metal supremacy with DEVILS ON BOTH SIDES. The embodiment of all the true godliness of thrash/power metal is summed up in this band and this album stands proudly as an example to those who think that new thrash bands all have crappy hardcore singers.
On the singer font, admittedly, a bit of worry crept in when long-time Imagika vocalist, David Michael, decided to leave the band. In 2003 the album was stated with Neil Kernon at the helm and the vocals with David Michael were pretty much recorded. Then he left the band. Thoughts of how could he possibly be replaced left me with some doubt. Enter newcomer Norman Skinner from the band Tramontane. Not sure of what he could do in Imagika, I was willing to listen with open mind and ears. It may be tantamount to ImagikaMetal heresy to admit this, but Norman adds the one thing to the band that they at times lacked...vocals with melody! Now before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion that the band has went soft, forget it. The music burns with the same fire and intensity that was present since day one. Norman can belt it out sounding a bit like David on a track like “In Your Shadow” and then he can bring in the melody and atmosphere with a song like “Evil’s Rising”. This style of thrash vocals (melody + aggression) is exactly what most new thrash metal is lacking. For this reviewer, the good old days of thrash metal is represented by the Bay Area thrash bands. At the top of that list would be those with versatile vocalists (Forbidden, Death Angel, Testament, etc.). Imagika always brought to mind that sound and they have managed to improve on this and on the band’s overall impact with the new vocalist.
So besides the whole vocalist thing, there are some other fine musicians in this band as well! Steve Rice on guitar continues to write killer thrash riffs and ripping solos. He even throws in a bit of acoustic guitar on this album without overdoing it. Drummer Henry Moreno has outdone himself with his performance on this album - very tight playing with fills and speed that keeps me impressed even though I don’t usually listen closely to the drums. Bass goddess Elena Repetto Luciano keeps up a solid bottom end but she doesn’t get to stand out as much as the rest of the band. There is also a new guitarist in the line-up (Pat Toms), but he’s not playing on the album. The band has managed with one guitar for this long, so it’s unclear why a member was added at this point. What his impact will be on the band’s sound won’t be heard until the next album...surely having a second guitar for playing live will give the band the extra power required.
As for what are the stand-outs of the album, I have to pick the #1 song on here to be “Evil’s Rising” (or as some smart-ass suggested “EvilG’s Rising”...ha!). EvilG is indeed getting a rise out of the album and this song with it’s haunting vocal line, excellent chorus, diverse song...perfection. My current other 2 favorites would be the opening tracks “In Your Shadow” and “ Hexed”. Both sound a little more like typical Imagika than “Evil’s Rising”, but typical for Imagika is beyond godlike for most bands. There are no bad songs on here so there’s no point in trying to criticize anything about this album. The only way this could be better is if it was longer than 10 songs!
So far for 2005, DEVILS ON BOTH SIDES easily stands head and shoulders above every other album. If you loved past Imagika releases, then my praise is of course nothing more than preaching to the converted. If however you’ve yet to check out this band, this is the album on which to do just that. Head over to http://www.imagikametal.com
and discover for yourself what real thrash metal was meant to sound like...devoid of trends, timeless, ageless, relentless...IMAGIKA!!!!!