Fool's Game - Reality divine 4/5

Reviewed: 10-23-09


1. Mass psychosis
2. When the beginning meets the end
3. Sowing dead seeds
4. As the field of dreams was abandoned
5. The conqueror worm
6. Prelude to the fair
7. She moved through the fair
8. The wild swans at coole
9. On endless planes of ignorance

The full-length debut by this band is a superb mix of intricate, polished, and engaging American-styled metal, buoyed by excellent lyrics. Started by Matt Crooks (previously with Division) on guitar and bass, he is joined by Matt Johnsen (from Pharaoh) on lead guitars, John Macaluso (ex Riot, TNT, and Yngwie among others) on drums, Nick Van Dyk on keyboards, and Lars Larsen from Denmark’s Manticora is the main vocalist.

To the extent you’re familiar with many of those bands, which tread the line between power and progressive metal, the music and style of the CD will be no surprise. It's rife with Johnsen’s stunning melodic leads, both complex and memorable, and part of the unique voice of Pharaoh, while Larsen’s vocal performance is perhaps his most passionate and finest to date, with his unique tone that’s like a cross between Rage’s Peavy and Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl. Nick Van Dyk takes a somewhat more austere take on the keyboards, where they complement and add some unusual notes to the music, rather than becoming a foundation for the songs. The music is complex, and yet keeps driving onward with enough cohesion and straightforward drive that it doesn’t quite cross over into the realm of what I’d call progressive metal, partially based on the insistent, dark drive of the rhythm section in Macaluso and Crooks. The musicianship is top notch, the songs are memorable, and the feeling is nothing short of full out metal, while still feeling fresh and exciting. The production is strong and professional too.

The lyrics are great, but it was the band’s idea to incorporate some classical poetry that fully blew me away. The band takes a nod from Loreena McKennitt with its trilogy of songs using poetry as the lyrics for the songs, just as Steal Seal brilliantly did with Kipling’s “If”. “The wild swans at coole” is by Yeats, while “She moved through the fair” is a traditional piece. But the piece de resistance, for me of the entire CD, is the magnificent “The conqueror worm”, where the band uses my favorite Edgar Allen Poe poem, itself a utterly metallic allegory for the inevitability of death, and wraps it in a stunning song. Psycho Scream/Control Denied/Pharaoh’s Tim Aymar guests on this CD as well. It’s both perfectly selected and executed.

Really excellent stuff, so if you enjoy the work of Manticora, Division, Pharaoh, and other bands whose melodic metal is intricate yet cast in a forge of pure metal, I heartily recommend this CD.

"I see the works of gifted hands
That grace this strange and wondrous land
I see the hand of man arise
With hungry mind and open eyes."




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