Magic Kingdom…Magic Kingdom…oh yeah, debuted in 1999 with an album of decent Power Metal struggling through ropey production and wrapped in a terrible cover! Well, everyone has to start somewhere and follow-up “Metallic Tragedy”, belied it’s portentous title and was a vast improvement on it’s predecessor. Rather good actually if memory serves, but that 2004 release is the last I had heard by the band. Since then main-man guitarist and Malmsteen sound-and-look-alike Dushan Petrossi has been busy with the slightly more commercial and much more neoclassical orientated Iron Mask.
Personally, I find Magic Kingdom’s energetic Symphonic-Power-Metal-with-Speed-and-Neoclassical-elements is initially quite Italian in it’s theatrically Symphonic style, with the band comfortably settling into to the song-writing styles of Rhapsody Of Fire, Athena and Labyrinth with apparent ease and accomplishment. But splashes of bands like Stratovarius and Progressive touches keep things edgier and interesting, rather than depending on undeniable guitar wizardry. Since the band’s last outing they have introduced new vocalist Christian Palin. Vocally he particularly reminds me of Edu Falaschi (in Almah, rather more than in Angra). Within certain songs they also remind me of Shadows Of Steel in their delivery, though more mid-range, echoing maybe Dragonhammer or maybe Morifade at times when combined with the music. The vocals are quite well set into the mix so although the vocal lines are perfectly audible and expertly delivered, the lyrics are less obvious…which, recalling Iron Mask, is probably for the best…
Musically, there are some really good speedy Power Metal songs on offer here, littered with great riffs (‘Guardian Angels’ contains at least three in it’s intro alone!), double-kick drums pounding away nicely and incorporating intricate time-changes. The songs are very much Neoclassical in arrangement, but I always feel this works at it’s best when treated to excitedly galloping bass and drums as they are for much of “Savage Requiem”. Then, when there is a twiddly, lightning guitar break it has much more impact – as does a catchy Symphonic chorus, which this album also has plenty of. Every song is well thought out, well crafted and usually contains something unexpected. If you enjoy Malmsteen at his most Power Metal or Stratovarius and Luca Turilli at their speediest (‘With Fire and Sword’ takes the listener straight back to all that was great and exciting about Power Metal in the late 90’s) then Magic Kingdom will surely paddle your canoe. And a mention must go to closing track ‘Battlefield Magic’, which is one of the fastest examples of Neoclassical Power Metal I’ve ever heard – every member playing at break-neck speed with lower, meaner sounding urgent vocals – a real highlight!
Magic Kingdom certainly have plenty to offer many a Power Metal fan (though more so if you favour Sonata Arctica over Hammerfall I’d say) and they sound like a talented unit that really gel on “Savage Requiem”, with real energy. Whether that is the introduction of a new member, a break from other projects, or a renewed passion for faster, more energetic music who can say, but whatever it is, it’s made this album a contender for being the best in it’s field this year.
(7/10 Andy Barker)