Imagika - Devils on both sides 3.5/5

Reviewed: 2-3-06


1. In your shadow
2. Hexed
3. Evils rising
4. Devils on both sides
5. Last battalion
6. Back to the beginning
7. Voice of prejudice
8. Dead eye-stare
9. Spellbound
10. Vigilante

I find it hard to believe that this is the 4th CD I've purchased of this band. Says something about how much metal there is to digest, with so many strong new bands, so many long time bands and even newer bands releasing their catalogs... but I digress.

This band hails from San Francisco, U.S., and, once more, the "must-be-the-water" of geography-based metal identity confirms that this band comes by its sound honestly, but it's probably closer to the shade of the spectrum produced by acts like Forbidden, Heathen, and Defiance from that region, rather than the edge of old Exodus and Vio-Lence. While the band has a new singer, Norman Skinner, from its prior releases, the end sound and result is very much in line with what the band has done before, so that those who enjoyed the prior 3 releases will enjoy this as well.

For those unfamiliar, Imagika drives out a strong blend of pure, straightahead American metal, with a somewhat dark tone that edges a bit towards thrash without crossing the line. Skinner's vocals are somewhat in the line of Iced Earth's Matthew Barlow, tinged with Morgana Lefay's Charles Rytkönen (who himself channels Jon Oliva pretty strongly) and in fact, combining the musical style of those 2 bands will give you an idea of what to expect in the music as well. What it isn't? It's not full out thrash, certainly nothing deathish, nor is it epic Manowar styled metal or traditional European power metal. And while it might sound similar to bands like Cage, it has a bit more rhythmic sensibility.

Interestingly, I find the drumming one of the most compelling elements of the CD, as Henry Moreno delivers a tremendously dynamic beat, with measures constantly brimming with fill-like staccato rhythms, otherwise contrasted with songs that might generally be characterized as midtempo, but the dark, pure metal, rumbling crushes quite powerfully (check out the title track, one of my favorites.). Band mainstay Steven D. Rice and newcomer Pat Toms (adding a 2nd guitarist for the first time) deal out standard but satisfying metal riffs and some nice leads, again, a hint of thrash attitude here and there without really breaking free of a more traditional metal structure, and the 3rd addition to the band, Elena Luciano, deals out the rest of the somber, ominous, and rumbling rhythm.

The lyrics cover a good range of somewhat metallic topics, even including a song about civil war ghosts ("Last battalion"), and are overall thoughtful enough to fit the music well. The production is pretty clear and strong, the vocals could be a bit more prominent, but the sharp guitars and above referenced drum come through cleanly and with the appropriate level of devastation.

Again, fans of the type of metal that Morgana LeFay produced, with a bit more variety, a bit more aggression, and certainly a more interesting drumline will find a lot to like in this CD, and fans of the band will find another solid offering. The CD might benefit from just a bit stronger songwriting and catchier choruses, but it does the job. Certainly, there's a lot less of this style of metal out there these days than there is the European style sound, and to me, it still has an edge, in a positive way of that straightforward naivete that is such an important element fading away generally.




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