OverturesI like Italian metal in general and of the prog-power fraternity I particularly like DGM and Kingcrow. There’s such an energy and creativity about them. I didn’t know Overtures but they’ve been going since 2003 and this is their third album of what I discovered to be tight power-orientated metal.

The start of “Entering the Maze” made me think in fact that I was going to be listening to an album by Brainstorm. It’s the same sort of heavy, melody-driven yet catchy power metal. The flowing style is reminiscent of others – Helloween, Masterplan, Hammerfall and the usual suspects. The classic ingredients are all there – melody, a lively pace, solos, breaks and unchallenging lyrics – but I’ll tell you what, this has spark and sophistication. The rhythm is unerringly like Brainstorm on the opener “The Maze”. It’s good. The nice thing is that although the generic style is recognisable, each song has individuality. I felt personality coming through rather than an imitation. The lyrics are classically uninspiring – “I feel the power to unleash my force” and the like – but at least the instrumentals going on in the background are always vivid and varied. The drummer beats rhythmically and there are nice electronic touches. “Under the Northern Star” is about song structure and quality and isn’t just homage to power metal. Rhythmic jollity is a hallmark of this band. “Of Nightmares” fits the bill. The chorus is kitsch but it’s toe-tapping stuff. A break is the cue for the vocalist to move away in more, but not too threatening direction. Soon we’re into a rampant guitar solo – oh, how jolly it all is – and the obligatory break before the return to the chorus. Sure, the structure is by numbers but the liveliness of the track can’t be faulted.

“Savior” then starts in bombastic and chugging prog-power style. The bombast remains as the singer, who it has to be said has a very pleasing voice, belts out his chorus on this constantly transforming track. I like the way they play with us before the now obligatory solo. Again it’s full of life and energy. They brought it all with them on “Savior”. Bravissimo! Credit is due to Overtures then for applying the force in a Rammstein-style opening, which provides the backbone to the next track “Empty Trails”. The singer sings platitudinously to the power metal heavens: “So we rise and we fall, but we’ll carry on once and for all …. Empty drams and empty trails won’t fill this empty space, deep in my soul”. Lyrically it may not be remarkable but the template cheese juxtaposes nicely even so with the heavy and chirpy rhythms which are so typical of this enjoyable album. I never tired of the rampant jollity because it always has a darker edge and a definite sophistication of structure. “Consequences” has more progressiveness. “Why do we always have to fade our dreams away?” ponders the singer. I reckon “Why do we … ?” is a power metal leitmotif. I asked myself why do we have uninteresting “why do we’s” instead of, say, “why do we have nasal hair?” (for educational purposes you may make up your own example at this point). But this is power metal. Bodily functions are not their bag. As I was musing this point, orchestral pomp appeared and took us to a softer acoustic track. Oh, it’s time for the power ballad. In fact “In the Middle of Nowhere” is slightly above average, I’d contend, as there’s a build-up which is matched by sensitive instrumentals. The drums have a meaty flavour. I don’t do power ballads, I have to confess and didn’t really do this one. “In the Middle of Nowhere” finishes in a power blaze, if such a thing exists.

As if to prove that they don’t stand still, Overtures turn into US rock stars for a while and adopt a choral line that could have been borrowed from Queen. This is “Programmed to Serve”. The “programmed” is a play on words – computers and us people being programmed into “a drive we call world”. My goodness. But cheesy double entendres apart, let’s not forget the jollity, the energy, the flow. It goes through your veins. But at the risk of making it sound intellectual, what’s so exquisite is the timing. We are allowed time to soak in the rampant rhythm and the catchiness which if repeated to perpetuity would be boring. So it isn’t because there’s a break, a change, a solo and we’re unwittingly brought back to the land we know and we’re humming along. Well, some of us are. But wait … it’s gone dark. “The Oracle” is a nine minute feast. Changing the ambiance without losing their identity is something that Overtures are very good at. There are power metal pretentions about this but it’s all much cloudier, toned down in pace and even in sinister. For those pining after the power metal chorus, there is one, but this is really about magic and mystery. The singer calls from the dark and the guitar speaks in a mysterious tone. There’s a real epic quality about this versatile track. “The Oracle” has superb shape and control and is everything that Overtures are good at. There’s even time for a bit of acoustic work, but I could not expect anything less than a jolly power metal chorus and drama to end, and that is of course what we got.

It’s always good when you want to listen to an album, and that’s what happened to me here. I wanted to listen to “Entering the Maze” carefully and take it in. Overtures made that easy for me. A nice little bonus was the accompanying dvd which featured a live studio set and some videos, including the dynamic “Savior”. OK, the lyrics set out to scale heights which, for so long as power metal lyrics exist, they never will. But they’re harmless. Instrumentally and structurally this is a mature and exciting album from a professional group of musicians. Listening carefully to “Entering the Maze” resulted in a great deal of enjoyment, warmth and fun.

(8/10 Andrew Doherty)