Derdian - New era pt. 2/War of the gods 3/5

Reviewed: 10-26-07


1. Overture
2. New era
3. Betrayer
4. I don't wanna be
5. Golstar's revenge
6. Why
7. Back to the crystal
8. Immortal's lair
9. The hunter
10. Before the war
11. War of the gods

The problem with reviewing music in a hugely crowded subgenre is that it can be very difficult to listen to the music on its own terms. Italian symphonic power metal is one such subdivision. Ever since Rhapsody burst into the spotlight in 1997 with their at-the-time unheard of use of massive orchestral keyboard arrangements there has been a seemingly never-ending queue of imitators in their wake.

It means that there is an inevitable mix in quality, but worse than that, can leave the listener jaded to even the better bands of the style. When there are so many bands playing neo-classical guitar solos, blaring keyboard symphonies and singing about their own made-up fantasy lands it can end up drawing a groan or roll of the eyes as soon as the intro track starts up.

Derdian are one such band that are just plain difficult to figure out. The music on their 2nd CD 'New era pt. 2/War of the gods' is as derivative as it is well performed. Their vocalist Joe Cagianelli is adequate, but not exactly the best. His voice is a little pale and reedy, and often the best (or at least most interesting) vocal passages come from guitarist Enrico Pistolese when he pops up to offer slightly heavier vocals (on one occasion proper death growls) and unusual 'one man choirs'.

This last aspect is one of the things that separate Derdian slightly from many of their contemporaries the overall sound is a little less full-on, with the keyboard and vocal layers not as thick and overblown as is often the case. It means some of the other musical aspects sound a little beefed up, though in truth it is probably just that they are actually not being drowned out. The lead guitar is sharp and intricate, but the keyboard is still the dominant instrument, breaking up the songs perhaps too regularly for piano and faux-symphonic interludes. As usual though, the drums are more often than not a constant double-bass barrage so high in the mix that the half-formed rhythm and bass guitar parts are choked out anyway.

All this should be sounding very familiar, and this is exactly the problem with the CD with everything having been done a thousand times before, it is difficult to get too excited about it. "Back to the crystal" features unexpected chugging guitars and proggy keyboard and drum parts, with the aforementioned growled vocals. This is one of the few instances of variety and the unexpected on 'New era pt. 2', with the rest of the songs fairly uniform. Only a few songs stand out, such as the "The hunter", a track the band chose to record a video for. This should be a wise promotional move as it is the most straightforward, energetic song on the CD.

In the end, this review may come across as more of a criticism of the symphonic metal subgenre as a whole than the single CD in question, but this is exactly the problem with the music. It is expertly played and achieves exactly what it sets out to, but when the goal is something so standardized, it really will takes something special to impress experienced listeners. Newcomers not weary of the style or genre diehards should appreciate 'New era pt. 2' as it is probably as good an example of the style as you're likely to find outside of the big hitters. For those caught in the middle there is little of serious interest.




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