Released: 2013, Supertzar Records
Gothenburg, Sweden delivers a dark power metal album this time, courtesy of Mad Architect’s debut, JOURNEY TO MADNESS. Manning the mic, is none other than drummer Snowy Shaw, of innumerable metal bands best known for his work in King Diamond & Mercyful Fate. Formed in 2011, the band recorded the DREAMWORLD Ep in 2012. Joining the band in 2013 was American bassist Erik Ferentinos (Stephen Pearcy Band). Production and mixing was handled by another King Diamond alum, Andy LaRocque.
Mad Architect’s style is closer to Iced Earth than say Edguy, employing a stripped down edge not as machine gunned riffed or stiff as Iced Earth, but certainly employing that band’s penchant for minor key song construction. Keyboards are muted and subtle, rarely bombastic and in your face as other power metal keys are. Vocally, Shaw is an acquired taste, sounding like a combination of Gothminister and Nick Holmes in his natural style, while utilizing aggression and deep, almost black metal croaks to compensate for his limited range. “Universal Law” is a good place to get a grasp of his style, while the middle section contains dark minor chord arpeggios to add to the atmosphere. The full measure of the album’s style is evident pretty early in, and rarely moves away from a mid-paced chug. Mad Architect’s greatest strength is in drummer Zven Lindsten, a fact not lost on LaRocque, who has moved the percussions to the front of the mix. Check out Lindsten’s work on “Sailing Away” to get a good idea of his importance to the overall sound. “Floating” is an interesting dark ballad, reminiscent of Nevermore’s almost anti-ballad constructions, and providing a bit of variety to the mid-paced cruise of most of the album. Album closer “Altered States” is probably the best track on the album, an epic of variety and the most varied vocals, closer to what I expected the whole album would sound like.
Credit the band for sounding unique, employing a style that fuses Gothic metal elements with Power Metal. That originality will serve them well, though the songs are at times somewhat lackadaisical and lacking in fierce energy. LaRocque’s mix is likewise unusual, guitars and vocals further back while drums take the center stage. I give them my respect for the original concept of the band’s sound though I will probably rarely revisit this album for two important reasons that are key to my repeated enjoyment of music. Shaw’s vocals just do not do it for me, though I can see where it would work for many other fans. I rarely find black metal vocals complimenting mid-paced power metal, and the deep vampire croon style does not seem to work here either. The other issues is that the songs are just not inspiring enough to kick me in my ass and start my day, good for perhaps brooding and consuming copious amounts of alcohol and calling it a night, which also serves a purpose I suppose.