Zandelle - Twilight on humanity 4/5

Reviewed: 11-12-04


1. Warlords of steel
2. The champion
3. A hero's quest
4. Lord of thunder
5. Immortal realms
6. Delusions
7. Eternal love
8. Sunrise
9. The cycle
10. Twilight on humanity

New York's Zandelle have always struck me as an underdog in the traditional power metal world. Formed as an offshoot of their more successful cousin, the Gothic Knights, in 1996, Zandelle toiled in obscurity for years. Although blessed with a gifted singer/bassist/chief songwriter in George Tsalikis, the band couldn't seem to get it together. 2 independent releases, 1996's self-title EP and 1998's 'Shadows of reality' showed glimmers of brilliance, but failed to ignite more than a spark of interest, perhaps because of the poor productions and hideous crayon artwork. To make matters worse, Tsalikis faced a revolving door of band personnel, with the only semi-constant being guitarist Anthony Maglio, who came on board in 1998. They played a couple of Powermad festivals, but were cursed with miserable time slots (i.e., first thing Friday afternoon one year, late on Sunday the next), and therefore made little headway in converting the faithful.

Fortunately, this tale of struggle and woe has a happy ending, as Tsalikis and the boys finally attracted the attention of LMP (no small feat for an American act, given the predilection of that label towards European bands) and unleashed the mighty 'Twilight on humanity' worldwide in the fall of 2002. This CD showcases a band that has matured and refined its attack with stunning results. Songs like the anthemic "Warriors of steel", the galloping "The cycle" (with its haunting refrain, "Darkness is my only friend" dedicated to the victims of 9/11), the breathlessly urgent "Lords of thunder", and the exultant 12 minute title track represent all that is good about European styled power metal in the 21st century. The guitar work is excellent, the riffs and melody lines are well thought-out, and Tsalikis's high-pitched voice and unique timbre (while a bit thin at times) works well and is instantly recognizable. Hearing these tracks, my heart swells with pride as a band that I've followed with interest since its inception has blossomed into a true contender on the true metal stage.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must point out that this CD is not without flaws. The production, for one thing, remains substandard for an LMP release. Too often, the guitars knock politely on the door, instead of kicking it down with unbridled jack-booted ferocity. The rhythm section is muddy. And the garage-sounding choirs lack the requisite punch and fullness to realize the material's full potential. Also, Zandelle rightfully deserves criticism for including a blindingly sappy love song ballad like "Eternal love", which features some of the weakest, lovey-dovey lyrics to come down the pike in eons. Guys, stick to your forte: Pummeling power metal! Notwithstanding these flaws, 'Twilight on humanity' is a welcome addition to any discerning metalhead's collection, and a triumph for these underdogs of the underdark.




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