Released: 2013, Scarlet Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Having toured with the likes of Tarja, Dragonforce and Accept, and with new frontman Fabio Lione of Rhapsody of Fire fame bringing the cream of symphonic power metal influence to their CV, it's fair to say that established quartet Hollow Haze have some clout to their moniker. With four albums already under their belts, and after critical acclaim for 2012's 'Poison In Black', the anticipation of great things from their latest baby shouldn't be too far a stretch.
In good news, it's as vivacious and intense as envisaged (although in light of the album's featuring of Antarktica and the Wintermoon Orchestra, expectations of anything less would be reasonably retarded). Bombastic and gloriously OTT, it's true to signature form of the genre. Lione's gravelly falsetto slices through tense synth patterns and pummeling power-rhythms like a satin cheese wire attacking a set of crochet net curtains. Technically on-point at all times, the old-school seeps through every sonic pore, with Lione's previous musical projects pairing tremendously with tinges of Helloween and Queensryche, for a traditional vibe offset by a refined performance patina. But they're not a one-trick-power-pony; threads of Rage and the towering heights of Stratovarius are spiked with thrashier hues of Iced Earth and tied to a classic core that hints at Maiden, for a feel that is both pastiche and current.
Modal melodies and oriental tones also disarm and outthink listening predictions, sprinkling some variety into the pancake. It's knowledgeable, practiced and a testament to the instrumental chops of a band who have cut their teeth on myriad gems of theatrical metal, both old and new.
What's also great about 'Countdown To Revenge' is the ability to actually take it seriously. One of the enormous thorns in the side of power-metal is its propensity to make you absolutely crack up with its ridiculousness, no matter how much respect you may have for the catchy songwriting and powerhouse delivery. But the musicality within this record, the grand orchestral soundscapes and the prolific virtuosic skill, are all too strong to write it off as common-or-garden pomp-comedy. Any troubles? It can get a little much after a while. This isn't a criticism of its creativeness or adherence to the genre criteria; it's simply an observation that its sheer richness leads it to become the aural equivalent of a really sweet and creamy Knickerbocker Glory that gets rather sickly after a while.
As an artifact of modern power metal, however, it's a force to be reckoned with. Opting for punchy song structures and lengths, rather than attempting deviations into progressive territory, is also to its benefit; the verse-chorus roadmarks anchor its lofty content into absorbable segments, rather than suggesting a lack of expansiveness or willingness to experiment where songwriting is concerned.
Consistent, bolshy and confrontational, 'Countdown To Revenge' packs a significant punch through its lace-trimmed velvet glove. If you like a bit of drama, go and treat yourself – you'll be very glad you did.
Review by Rhiannon Marley