Shadows of Steel - Second Floor
Underground Symphony
Symphonic Power Metal
12 songs (55:01)
Release year: 2002
Shadows of Steel, Underground Symphony
Reviewed by Marty

Shadows Of Steel is yet another Italian symphonic metal band that has come along in recent years. These guys are not new to the scene though, having released their debut album in 1996. Since then, they have released a double mini-CD and in fact recorded this particular album in 1999-2000. Unforseen problems resulted in the release being delayed until now, with only the single, Heroes seeing the light of day before the release of this album. The lead vocalist, Wild Steel, performs wearing a rather pointy version of a Phantom Of The Opera mask. This mask-wearing gimmick was originated in the 70's with Peter Gabriel and revisited again, briefly, by Fish from Marillion in the 80's. The band also consists of Ice Reaven and Yackson, guitar, Steve Vawamas, bass, and Frank Andiver, drums, previously with Labyrinth. Technically, this band is very, very good. The guitar playing is top notch as is the drumming and keyboard playing. They play a very fast, old Helloween -like power metal with symphonic textures and some progressive elements. Most tracks are very fast with very fast double bass drumming and shredding leads. Some of the synthesizer leads really are a throw back to a 70's style and remind me of bands such as Styx and Angel.

Two aspects of this band really need work though, the vocals and the overall songwriting. Wild Steel has a powerful voice but really doesn't know how to use it properly. He sounds way too over-dramatic and doesn't really compliment the songs. At times, his voice is almost irritating. Most of the tracks contain some real technical brilliance but very little substance and very weak choruses. Killer riffs and well-timed tempo changes don't always make a great song and a few of the tracks feature what I like to call "technical masturbation". It's when bands do all kinds of wild and very technically difficult stuff to try to compensate for the lack of really solid songs. Most of the leads are very fast shredding leads which have very little to do with the tempo and overall melody of the song. Female vocals are used intermittently on several tracks, which seems to be very trendy lately but in this case, doesn't save any of these songs.

Heroes, the first single, is a decent track and opens with a cool guitar/synthesizer duet with great instrumentation and lots of tempo changes. King Of The Island alternates between slower galloping tempos and speedier ones for the chorus and contains a lightning fast instrumental break. Crying, one of the faster tracks, features very fast double bass drumming and power riffing with some very Helloween -like harmony leads. One track, Playing Room V, is more straight ahead Power Metal and while it lacks the speediness found in most of the other songs, overall, the band sounds better on this track than anything else on this album. Included as a bonus track, is a very painful to listen to, version of Strange Wings by Savatage from the Hall Of The Mountain King album. This is not a very good version of the song and I think it may have been recorded at another time ( a few years prior). The production is really lacking on this track and it sounds very inferior to the rest of the album. The vocals differ too much from the original version and some of the chordal octaves that Chris Oliva (guitar - Savatage) used in the original to accent and create atmosphere aren't even used here.

I'd love to hear more instrumental work from this band, as I think it would be really good. Production-wise, there are some flaws. On a couple of tracks, the vocals are not loud enough and are buried in the mix. A few times, sprinkles of guitar that is added to tracks, meant to be in the background, is actually louder than the main riff. All the instruments i.e. the drums, keyboards, bass and guitars have a great sound to them but the problems seem to be in the mixing process. I really like this sort of music and although these guys along with Rhapsody, Labyrinth and Skylark are the real pioneers for this form of metal music, I don't feel that they really offer anything truly unique and worthwhile. A little less attention to technical issues and more attention to the vocal delivery style and overall songwriting would really help this band. Technical brilliance doesn't make a band. If there are no decent songwriters in the band then it's going to be difficult to survive with so many very talented metal bands out there today.

Killing Songs :
Marty quoted 68 / 100
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