Although you might not hear their name spoken in the same reverential tones as, say, RHAPSODY or LABYRINTH, fellow Italian power metal diehards ELDRITCH have been there (since '91), seen it, done it and slain just as many dragons along the way. Probably.Although not nearly as prolific as Luca Turilli and the boys — consider any period within RHAPSODY's tenure where an album doesn't appear within six months of the previous one to be a lazy time — "Portrait Of The Abyss Within" is ELDRITCH's fifth album to date and they show no signs of letting up. At this point you might want to scrub that aforementioned quip about dragon-slaying because you won't find any mentions of emerald swords, storm mountains, or indeed, flying beasts here. Nope, this is seemingly pretty serious lyrical stuff about inner emotional turmoil etc. — the kind of thing that DREAM THEATER like to dip into, roughly. Correspondingly, while no space is left bereft of guitar harmonies on the likes of "Forbidden", you won't see them resorting to screeching, high-end, OTT sonic climaxes. And whilst this in itself might be music to the ears of cheese-haters, the shortage of explosive moments on "Portrait…" is actually what makes ELDRITCH a fairly unspectacular, if proficient, proposition in the end. "Dice Rolling" is a track that weaves in some of the more cultured guitar harmonies on the album, almost coming on, to these ears, like New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the shape of PRAYING MANTIS or something similar. But still, it's nothing that'll have you sitting up to any degree of amazement. When they opt to go even darker on the vaguely gothic "See You Down", the effect is dour and monotone for all the wrong reasons. And you can also count the assorted ballad moments in with that latter description — especially "Blindfolded Walkthrough", which is submerged in some kind of "wah-wah" effect that seems to go on for an agonizing eternity. It's when ELDRITCH really let loose — at least within the boundaries of their musical limits — that they pull themselves back from the brink. "Slow Motion", for one, is anything but — a galloping, brazen and catchy thrash-out with all the cocksure licks of Jeff "Annihilator" Waters. Together with "Drowning", a chug-heavy PANTERA-esque romp, these heavier excursions see ELDRITCH sitting prettiest. As vocalist Terence Holler's pipes aren't entirely the most dynamic in the world of metal, this direction certainly seems to do him quite a few favors. So, the message to ELDRICH is quite simple: stay heavy(er).
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