Pellek - Bag of tricks 3.5/5
2. Fugue state
3. Reason and psychosis
4. Send my message home
7. Don’t belong
8. Stare into my eyes
9. Born in Babylon
10. Bag of tricks
11. Conflagrate my heart
Per “Pellek” Asly may be a newcomer on the European power metal front, but he has gone and had himself quite a busy 2012, first excelling on the superb full-length debut of England’s Damnation Angels only a scant couple of months before the release of his first sort of-solo CD, ‘Bag of tricks’.
I had no idea until well after hearing both the CDs that he was in fact a reality TV star of sorts in his native Norway, and while that’s not really anything to hold against such an immense vocal talent, it may go some way to explaining the rather impressive roster of guest vocalists that appear on the CD. Recorded in Sweden with Tommy Johansson of Reinxeed, the band may bear the singer’s own nickname, but ‘Bag of tricks’ is definitely more than just a vanity in project and Asly in fact shows a degree of modesty and self-assurance by having so many well-known voices surrounding him at almost all times.
With Johansson producing, co-writing and playing nearly all the instruments, in some ways it feels more like his project than Asly’s and anyone familiar with Reinxeed’s self-described “OST metal” will find themselves in recognizable territory with what turns out to be a nippy, bombastic power metal CD embellished with plenty of symphonic and progressive touches. Johansson’s meticulous attention to detail when it comes to filling gaps with orchestral flourishes and his neo-classical lead playing are crucial in keeping the CD feeling vital and alive at all times, and there is rarely a dull moment throughout.
The varied approaches are what keep things interesting, as while the music is all drawn from a familiar well, the songs for the most part have a character of their own. Even with 3 of the 11 tracks being ballads featuring female vocal accompaniment (Amanda Sommerville on the first, “Send my message home”), the songs ebb and flow nicely, and it never feels like the CD is merely a product compiled to check list.
It might be the clutter caused by the many guest voices, but while Asly turns in an assured display behind the mic, there curiously seem to be somewhat less vocal acrobatics than he showed on his debut with Damantion Angels. It’s a minor quibble, as his performance is still an excellent one, but more use of his stunning 4-octave range in future would definitely be appreciated.
Despite the presence of such genre heavyweights as Oliver Hartmann (his bluesy voice as striking as ever) and newly-crowned Kamelot frontman Tommy Karevik, special mention must go to the lesser-known Anders Ringdall Strom, whose ballsy performance on the atmospheric “Born in Babylon” is the most impressive guest slot of the bunch. His gravely voice is a perfect foil for Asly’s ultra-clean tones and he dominates the song on his limited appearance.
This “Avantasia approach” is a bit of an odd one as far as solo CDs built around a lead singer go, but 'Bag of tricks' is a lively and colourful debut from a project that will offer “metal opera” fans somewhere to gather for a bit of multi-vocalist power metal.
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