Highlord - Instant madness 3/5

Reviewed: 11-24-06





Tracklist:

1. Jester's mask
2. Orion and ocean
3. The sweetest drug
4. Got a price?
5. Life's lymph
6. The trickster
7. Instant madness
8. Which side are you on?


In addition to Rhapsody, Labyrinth, Skylark and a few others, Highlord is one of the more establised Italian power metal bands in existence. My first experience with them was when I grabbed their 2nd CD 'When the aurora falls...'. This wasn't too long after I had begun getting into the Italian power metal scene, and Highlord ended up being one of the bands that greatly increased my excitement to dive in further. Even today, I'm very into this style, one that's in line with fellow Italians Vision Divine, Labyrinth, Sigma, Oracle Sun, Desdemona, Morgana and others.

'Instant madness' is the band's 5th CD, but they've certainly gone through some changes to get to this point. For starters, unfortunately, their debut 'Heir of power' was severely hurt by a terrible and weak production, meaning it wasn't until their 2nd CD 'When the aurora falls...' that the band began to get noticed. Considered by many to be a classic and ultimately their best, 'When the aurora falls...' is a CD with exceptional songwriting and many keyboard parts that really aided in drawing me to the Italian power metal scene.

Despite the success of 'When the aurora falls...' however, the band has gone through some line-up changes since then, most notably the acquisition of vocalist Andrea Marchisio (just prior to their 3rd CD 'Breath of eternity') from Desdemona, a band that currently has 2 excellent CDs ('Lady of the lore' and 'Look for yourself'). As far as I know, Andrea remains a part of both bands. Though it took some time for me to get used to the band's new look (sound), I actually like 'Breath of eternity' the best. The CD is filled with highlights, 'Show me your kingdom' being one of the best power metal songs ever in fact. Plus, I'm a big Desdemona fan and learning Andrea joined was something I was willing to accept. Next up was the band's 4th CD 'Medusa's coil' which, although is very similar in sound to 'Breath of eternity', was a step down in overall quality and, more specifically, contained a good amount of fillers.

With 'Instant madness', the band has unfortunately continued on a downslope. Though it's a slight decline, I just don't get that magical feeling that's present with some of the band's best material. Track 1 "Jester's mask" is simply average and, besides its fairly decent chorus, doesn't really get me excited to hear what's next. Fortunately, track 2 "Orion and ocean" and the fast-paced track 3 "The sweetest drug" are quite good and the keyboard solos in these songs (there is one in each) remind me of why I like Italian bands so much. Track 4 "Got a price?" is great too, containing some of those brief slower moments like a lot of Highlord songs do.

We hit the ballad "Life's lymph" midway through the CD and I do like it, but when compared to the magnificant "You'll never be lonely" from 'When the aurora falls...' and "Moonlight romance" from 'Breath of eternity', or even "Where my hero lies" from 'Medusa's coil', isn't quite as strong. The next track ("The trickster") and final track ("Which side are you on?") are both solid yet unspectacular, but "Instant madness", which seperates these 2, is the CD's true highlight and is what ensures the 3/5 "above average" rating. This title-track has it all and is one of Highlord's best songs.

So I end up with mixed feelings regarding 'Instant madness'. On the one hand, I'm happy one of my favorite Italian power metal bands is still releasing CDs and staying with their established vocal and musical style. But on the other hand, I wish the CD was an improvement over the previous 'Medusa's coil', rather than a slight decrease in quality. Still, I have faith in the band and am positive they're capable of matching or surpassing some of their best material to date. So label me a hopeful Highlord fan with his fingers crossed.



CLINT




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