I admit I was worried about this one. I’d never heard the band before and…well…Manimal – not the greatest name is it? Though granted Helloween seems pretty daft in hindsight so undeterred I accessed the press pack that the record company kindly provides for reviewers…only to find that the enclosed photo of the band had a tag of “M. TITS JPEG”. Bit harsh I thought, even their record company are dissing them, but then I thought it might be a cunning ploy to get the band a little more attention with saucy promo pix. But alas, it was indeed just a photo of the band and the record company had just abbreviated the title of the album. Also, the band do not appear to be shape-shifting super-beings like the guy in the really bad American 80’s TV Show “Manimal” (well, it doesn’t SAY they are in their biog, but maybe they do it live?) so with all those pressing issues sorted, it was a relief to find that they are actually purveyors of bloody good, no nonsense Heavy Metal!
Think latter-day Judas Priest (indeed, opener ‘Irresistible’ has more than a hint of ‘All Guns Blazing’ in it’s attitude and presentation) with a healthy dose of Primal Fear, especially in the higher vocal parts which can be reminiscent of a younger, slightly more exuberant Ralf Scheepers (sorry Ralf, you’ve still got it mate, honest…big muscly bugger is Ralf, don’t want to get on the wrong side of him!). This blend of traditional Heavy Metal and Power Metal is wrapped up nicely in a late 80’s enthusiasm that makes each track immediately accessible with great choruses and memorable riffs. That said, second track ‘March Of Madness’ reminds me a little of Winterborn’s debut and there is more than an occasional nod towards Lost Horizon and Brainstorm when the vocals soar and the drums fly like on tracks like on ‘Invincible’ and the title track.
So it would come as no surprise that Manimal are Swedish when you really get to grips with everything that is going on in their sound. It’s that Scandinavian quality of throwing in whatever sounds just right, so often displayed by Scandinavian Metal bands, and more often than not it seems to click. Manimal are showcased perfectly by a crisp and powerful production by Achim Koehler (the man responsible for albums by, shock horror, Primal Fear and Brainstorm amongst others).
A relentless track after track assault of top class Metal is unleashed, each with it’s own power, memorability and uniqueness, which means picking out individual songs to make note of is kind of unfair – each one has it’s own redeeming quality – and there isn’t a bad/filler track on the entire album! And wait just a mo, is that the unmistakeable tones of Mr. Udo Dirkschneider I hear within the pounding groove of ‘The Journey’? Too right it is – a really nice addition, and stands out as a great contrast to Manimal vocalist Samuel Nyman’s fabulous smooth-mid-range-to-testicle-gripping-high style.
Saving the best until almost last, the ultra-catchy penultimate track has to be worth a mention. ‘Screaming Out’ manages to blend the aforementioned Lost Horizon and Winterborn, sprinkle in a little of U.D.O.’s ‘Faceless World’ (ironically as it is the track after his guest slot) and still leaves plenty of time to squeeze in a classic Queensryche middle section and a damn fine guitar solo. Very nice indeed, but as I said earlier, it is rather unfair to pick out favourites when there is not a bad track anywhere on “Trapped In The Shadows”. So…Manimal – still a daft name but great music – it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened though – and that’s just part of this great thing called Heavy Metal for ya! Would we have it any other way?
(8/10 Andy Barker)