It is said that true pioneers never get the recognition that they deserve. In LABYRINTH's case, they didn't exactly reinvent the traditional metal wheel when their personal milestone album "Return To Heaven Denied" surfaced in 1997. But with the help of fellow Italians RHAPSODY and a handful of others, they put the pizzazz back into it — the opera. The drama. The glasshouse-troubling falsetto vocals. Or, if you care to ask RHAPSODY, the Hollywood.
For some reason which is hard to fathom, however, LABYRINTH have taken something of a critical lambasting since. Where as with a great percentage of the screechy nonsense masquerading as power metal (the sort of listening experience where you'd really rather be sticking chili peppers under your eyelids), LABYRINTH haven't really put a foot wrong. This self-titled third album, though no great revelation, continues to demonstrate that they are a force to be reckoned with.
As always, the mark of a credible power metal act is the strength of its singer. Roberto "Tyrant" Tiranti, who featured on "Return…", is back with his typical soaring larynx, blowing his range wide open on galloping opener "The Prophet", then pulling it back accordingly at the other end of the album as "When I Fly Far" puts things to bed with a piano-driven lilt.
Somewhere in the middle of these two songs, however, Tiranti can do little to bolster the few pieces that labor and drag. Take "Neverending Rest" — another piece that peters out into acoustic melancholia, but like its unfortunate title, becomes quite tiring as it meanders aimlessly. Of the heavier songs, the very ordinary "Synthetic Paradise" is simply not a patch on the racy and varied "Just Soldier (Stay Down)".
On the whole, the skill and confidence of a band like LABYRINTH again shines through. But something a bit extra-special may be needed to ward off the hordes of pretenders to the power metal crown. [Download the track "The Prophet" here]