Album of the Week 41-2016: Labÿrinth – Return To Heaven Denied


Romantic isn’t the first word you think of when it comes to metal. Yet it’s exactly the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Labÿrinth’s sophomore album ‘Return To Heaven Denied’. That doesn’t mean the record is full of shallow love songs. Okay, it’s not extremely heavy, but there’s plenty of fast, intricate riffing going on to please the fans of more progressive metal styles and the celestial melodies should enchant those who love the more melodic side of power metal. To me, the album has yet to lose the appeal it had around its release almost two decades ago.

When ‘Return To Heaven Denied’ was released, power metal did go through some sort of underground revival sorely needed to counteract the tough guy posturing of hardcore and nu-metal, but even within the relatively lightweight Italian scene, the atmosphere on ‘Return To Heaven Denied’ is unique. The production helps; guitarists Olaf Thörsen and Anders Cantarelli lay down some impressive chops – and their acoustics shimmer! – but they never overpower the rest. Even when Frank Rublotta’s drums roll at full speed, they blend in. Roberto Tiranti’s voice is expressive enough to fit an Italo pop record, but also powerful enough for metal.

If the last paragraph didn’t clarify the sound well enough, everything I have just described is present in opening track ‘Moonlight’. And while many things happen within that song, it retains this smooth flow that makes it feel like one song. Of course such a great chorus works wonders, but the guitar and keyboard melodies are equally impressive. And just check out that subtle tempo change after the choruses: simply brilliant. ‘New Horizons’ and ‘Time After Time’ follow a similar formula, while ‘Lady Lost In Time’ and ‘Thunder’ highlight the speedier side of the Italian sextet.

Of course there are ballads on a record with a romantic atmosphere. And they’re quite good too. ‘The Night Of Dreams’ balances on the line between beautiful and kitschy, but ‘Heaven Denied’ has an incredible build-up and ‘Falling Rain’ is simply breathtaking with its desperate atmosphere and stunning guitar solos. ‘State Of Grace’ combines both extremes into a melodic, elegant and utterly beautiful song which could have been a minor radio hit at the time. It’s catchy enough to have been one. Of further notability is the cover of ‘Feel’, originally by German techno trance collective Cenith X, which works better as a metal instrumental than it maybe should have.

At the time, Labÿrnth’s type of melodic and somewhat romantic power metal was called “gay” or “chicks’ metal” by the fans of downtuned modern metal that I somehow surrounded myself with and admittedly, I can see why the female metal crowd would like this, but the fact is: I love it too. The atmosphere is there to carry you away beyond – to quote ‘Moonlight’ – the ivory gates of dreamland, but the album also carries enough merits from a musicality viewpoint. While Labÿrinth spent the majority of this century’s first decade in a sizeable identity crisis, not many bands get to release even one record this good. With such a perfect album cover.

Recommended tracks: ‘Moonlight’, ‘State Of Grace’, ‘New Horizons’, ‘Falling Rain’

Advertisements
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: