I've not heard an album from Denmark's WUTHERING HEIGHTS since 2002's "To Travel for Evermore" and barely remember that one, outside recalling it being a progressive metal release. What a mistake that's been, as I've been thoroughly impressed with "The Shadow Cabinet", and find more to like about it with every spin. The addition of vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson in 2003 surely has something to do with it, as his DIO-esque (often RAINBOW-era) vocal style is the perfect complement to the band's superb mix of symphonic-tinged power metal and folk styles. As most of you know, a weak vocalist can kill an otherwise musically explosive album. Johansson makes these glorious jams that much more powerful with his golden pipes.And the tunes? Shit, just try to find one that doesn't have a memorable melody, wonderful guitar work, majestic atmosphere, and a butt-kicking delivery. "Demon Desire" and "Beautifool" begin the disc in fine, up-tempo fashion, the former including a folky break, the first of many folk flourishes found throughout the disc. "The Raven" follows with a strong arrangement that effectively incorporates choral backing vocals, while a folk violin line introduces the eight-minute "Faith – Apathy Divine Part I", the pattern becoming an integral part of a skillfully arranged song that features one of the album's best riffs and rhythms. A similar folk-injected style is heard on "Envy" and "Snow – Apathy Divine Part II" (the song also featuring a soaring twin-guitar harmony). The award for the mightiest, fist-pumping, multi-tracked vocal chorus goes to "Sleep", which begins with Johansson singing a capella before the song ultimately explodes into a full-speed romp. "I Shall No Yield" is nearly as bombastic, and "Carpe Noctem – Seize the Night" ends the album with a bang and yet another killer chorus. Producer Tommy Hansen (HELLOWEEN, CIRCUS MAXIMUS, TNT) does his usual expert job of bring out the best in a band. As if all of that weren't enough, the album also comes with a bonus disc of the band's 2004 live performance at ProgPower called "Roaming Far From Home". The recording is not perfect (and the band admits as much), but it is to serve merely as a treasured moment in the band's history and is certainly better than bootleg quality. So there you have it; the icing on the cake to a mighty fine slab of progressive power metal called "The Shadow Cabinet". Sensory rarely disappoints.
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