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Mad Hatter's Den
Released: 2016, Inverse Records
Hailing from Finland bearing a band name and album cover that scream “progressive metal!”, Mad Hatter’s Den have bestowed their second full-length album upon the metal masses. About that album cover, seriously, look at it. It’s a friggin’ flying submarine with a CASTLE hanging out the top of it. Even Salvador Dali would be confused. Anyway, the band features in its ranks vocalist Taage Laiho, who some might be familiar with from his work in power metal groups like Altaria and Ghost Machinery. He’s got a bunch of other credits to his name as well so he obviously gets around, but he seems to have found a permanent home with Mad Hatter’s Den.
Musically, the band simply calls themselves melodic heavy metal, which is certainly true but the prog elements in their music cannot be ignored. Basically, if you take a base of Iron Maiden and instead of that band’s Blaze-era belief that “long songs = prog”, had them ACTUALLY play progressive metal, you have the basis of the music on EXCELSIOR. Don’t take that the wrong way; I don’t mean that the band only rips off Maiden. They certainly have a few passages that sound like Smith/Murray, but Mad Hatter’s Den should be congratulated on having a sound that is distinctly their own that is played flawlessly and with conviction.
Case in point, first full song “Break the Chains (Into the Black)” is a twisty metal feast that includes both progressive and Eastern music influences in the sound and contains several distinct musical acts within it’s near 7-minute running time. The track is actually a bit off-putting as an introduction to the band, but with repeated listens becomes a highlight. It actually takes a few songs for things to really take off, but by the time we hit the “meat” of the with the aggressive trio of “Masters of Hate”, “Trail of Fears”, and “Through the Unknown”, the music really grabs your attention. Some of the later cuts drag a bit but the album finishes strongly with the menacing “Not of This World”.
As I said, not every song on EXCELSIOR is a winner but the album as a whole is a gripping listen with the excellent tracks far outweighing the weak ones. Good stuff – I look forward to hearing where the band goes next.
1. Eye of the Storm (intro)
2. Break the Chains (Into the Black)
3. Birds of Prey
4. Masters of Hate
5. Trail of Fears
6. Through the Unknown
7. Guardian Angel
8. Hero’s End (At the Silver Gates)
10. The Aftermath
11. Not of This World
Taage Laiho: Vocals
Jaakko Hanninen: Guitar
Kari Korhonen: Guitar
Petja Pummalainen: Keyboards
Harri Hautsalo: Bass
Tapio Korkeila: Drums
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