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Journey To Madness

Supersztar (2013)
Rating: 8/10

Heavy metal vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Snowy Shaw has certainly been around the block, and is most known for his work with King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Notre Dame, Therion and Dream Evil among many others. Now he’s turning tricks with Swedish metalheads Mad Architect who, following on from 2102’s debut Dreamworld EP, have released their full-length eight-tracker, Journey To Madness.

As expected, this is a wonderfully frosty affair offering us a dose of epic sounding mystical metal draped in icy guitars and Snowy Shaw’s distinctive vocal burps and gurgles.

On first listen, Journey To Madness is clearly a far better record than the aforementioned Dreamworld EP, boasting a crisp production which allows the guitars of Magnus Daun to really flow, aided by the sterling bass of Erik Ferentinos and Sven Lindsten’s booming drums.

Mad Architect has the appeal of a dark Tim Burton fantasy, sweeping the gothic wastes in search of ancient crowns and fair maiden’s with a glittery dose of glam metal in between. One only has to lend an ear to the grooving monstrosity that is ‘Universal Law’ to appreciate the band’s appeal. It’s the sort of track that combines the cartoon nightmares of Marilyn Manson with the struttin’ pomp of T-Rex, only given a power metal coat of paint.

Mad Architect is a dab hand at creating wondrously magical portraits of oaken gleams, glistening lakes and hidden realms, but once enshrouded in their magical blanket of melodic metal, it’s the sort of record that really does provide all the atmosphere needed to make a night in even more entertaining than a night on the twinkling tiles.

One thing I have to admit however is that Shaw’s vocals are rather an acquired taste. The guy has a distinctive style that for the most part is a slushy growl, but it’s when he adopts something slightly more throaty vocals that he begins to grate. However, he can be forgiven for these slips, because so wholesome is this record that I’m at once wrapped up in the dark nature and fantasy of it all to really care as to what flaws it may hold.

Whether it’s the spiralling beauty of ‘Dreamworld’ or the cold steel fist of ‘Strange Machine’, one can’t help but be impressed by this type of clinical metal. Not since Sanctuary’s 1989 opus Into The Mirror Black and certain Nevermore releases, have I found myself so chilled by a slab of metal.

While I often find modern metal quite remote in its high-tech arrogance, Mad Architect are intelligent enough to combine old school values of mythology with their unique raging metal; the result being a solid set of tunes that really step up to the plate. Headbangers will certainly find a lot of meat to strip from the bone with the likes of the stunning ‘Sailing’, so if you fancy a tapestry of melodic goth-tinged metal then where better place to journey than into the heart of madness.

Neil Arnold

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