Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shadow's Mignon
Midnight Sky Masquerade

Whether pastiche or paltry tribute this reconstruction of metal’s early-mid eighties glory years pillages, ransacks but largely elevates rather than desecrates the spangtastically tongue in cheek ridiculousness of the whole charade shebang and sheltering from storms in skyclad nooks and crannies. Exceeding the current glut of self-conscious stances at reimagining the past like an unfunny Flight of the Conchords sketch this is full of the fist ‘pon table proclamations and harbinging guitars as heralds clank armour, drink heavily and spew anthems such as A Dragon Shall Come, A Slave To Metal (about being, erm, brothers of the fist…), Kingdom Of The Battle Gods and Spirit Of The Elves. Much of it will make you laugh aloud, and even wince at the purposefully painful Marillion-style balladry of Goodnight Boston - check the song titles and write your own references on your (chain-mail and studded with patches and tippex-ed band names) anorak but you’ll find all manner of biker chug that Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, W.A.S.P. etc sawed off Rose Tattoo’s tough stems, the twin guitar pincers of Maiden and Lizzy are effectively appropriated into the general genial madness that launched Jake E. Lee-era Ozzy into Bark At The Moon. So, intro’s with tom-toms like Satan’s coxswain has taken the hotseat while the guitars gallivant over the deck, pushing the existing crew into seven seas of rye and increasingly risky visits to outfitting businesses? – check! Drop-outs with cowbells for ‘audience participation’? – cheeeeck! I bet they have a really vast roadie too! Check shirts? NevEERRRRR! More than an arch, knowing, parodic, patronising take on the genre, the surge of pure enjoyment filters from it, however much it’s intellectualised and is largely a gargantuan piss-take of Dio and Manowar. As mainman Henny Paul readily admits, die-hard metallers aren’t going to like the fact that it generally is a pile of bullshit (perhaps especially not by some jumped up prog-tech prissy smart-arse) yet it’s fun, as is this stupidly-titled project is – though nowhere near as good as last year’s Dead Child album - besides the cringing ballads so if you scowl at it then may a pestilence of pederastic priests beat a path to your door and pour out of, or into, your every crevice and blow your…house down. Raise your fist and yell (at least) indeed. Stu Gibson
Skeletons Domination

Surpassing the boundaries of progressive / power / pylon-wilting metal with a mast-high cast-iron harness of the possibilities of positive thinking, this Brazilian quintet broadsword their way brazenly about your consciousness on this second album. Tis a soul-stirring voyage of spirituality and epicurean feast for the cerebral on great banqueting tables constructed from frantic riff rampages and strafes of sheet lightning vocals like a giant rodent swinging Bruce Dickinson around like the Union Jack on The Trooper, some of the most joyfully ludicrous guitar squalls - yes, like fire-breathing dragons providing air support for the squadrons of melodies ascending and swooping on soaring eagle flight paths - but also impish inquisitiveness (check the guitar solo on Surrender and tell me it doesn’t appriase you like the little raptor that kills the chunky computer nerd when he falls out of his car in Jurassic Park) that manages to be a whole armada of fun and upliftingment, firing broadside salvoes of hopeful armbands amidst it’s possible ponderous, chin-stroking topics. Swat away the lily-larynxed harbingers who carp at such escapades being colossal tapestries of misdirected testosterone, sub-Maiden nerdery or Ritchie Blackmore’s ham-fisted puppets, behind the dextrous duelling arcane scales that would bring deliverance to it’s flippers, back to front knees and assorted placing of ears is a real and genuine warmth clearly omnipresent on Spiritual Path, Leave Me Alone, Phoenix Tales and Cancer, which has a spiralling riff of such laser-intense density it surely should eradicate the disease, in both it’s actual form as well as it’s metaphorical mental malaise - but then you have to make the next album at least a double to spike the thorny issue of how then do you deplete the over-populating of the parlous planet? Skeletal Dominations is a glorious march, a purely beneficent dictatorship (on the rolletariat? Oh, come, now!) much deserving of a sprawling Alexandrian empire that never gets preachy or spreads a reek of patchouli through your speakers - even the insanely abysmal power bollock Bad Dreams is rescued, almost inevitably, by the adorably lovely vocals of Raquel Fortes - that visibly tightens yer trousers and may even stick patches on your back, whilst the closing brace of instrumental Regret and Forever And Ever shrink them to lederhosen with some additional spurges of Bavarian accordion spring dancing, as though they’re welcoming Keith Floyd in on his bicycle jaunt from some Etruscan hillside cooking expo. Spread the word, spread your wings, smell the corfee and fertilise your brain stems and combine to move mountains, even ones of your own creation.
Stu Gibson
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