I've had the pleasure of following Mad Hatter's Den's musical career from their first EP in 2012, Dark Wheel through their first long player, 2013's Welcome To The Den. Now the band is back with Excelsior, and a few changes. Arto Pitkanen has been the new drummer since 2013, and new bass player Jarno Vitri also takes over vocals from Taage Laiho.
There may be some other things you might notice about Mad Hatter's Den and this new album. They continue to play melodic heavy metal with a strong twin guitar presence embellished by copious amounts of synths. But they've added more breadth and depth to their sound by bumping up the symphonic element, adding more power metal thunder, and dropping in some prog metal nuances. Frankly, I like the band's direction. It's shows maturity in musicianship and song composition.
On to the songs, and those promising elements, allow me to mention a few. For that thunder, speed, and gallop of power metal Through The Unknown is likely the best example. It roars along from start to finish, pedal to the metal, riffs, bass, and drums blazing. Blending the same with masterful melodic metal, Hero's End proves the band's ability to vary tempos, but also declare that twin guitar harmony rules. They song may remind you of Blind Guardian. For the progressive metal nuances, Break The Chains offers a notable juxtaposition between heavy riffs in the first half that give way to a gentler turn, something more smooth after the midpoint.
Songs with more of the aforementioned symphonic notes come with, by example, The Aftermath and Not Of This World. I've always liked the use of synths in the Mad Hatter's Den sound. In Birds Of Prey, they make the band and the song sound like what early Kansas might have sounded like if they warped 30 years into the future and became a power metal band. Another song of interest is Masters Of Hate which can only be described as melodic heavy metal in an AOR wrapper. It has a great rock groove, catchy melody, nice choral vocal arrangement, and the bass and drum lines are quite present. Finally, you get a heavy metal anthem with Guardian Angel, a song that begins with voice and piano, before building to a larger, quick paced, finale with a soaring guitar solo.
So those are just the highlights, the songs that got my attention. But it's enough to say that there is not bad song here. It's all killer, and no filler. Perhaps the album could have been trimmed in length, or not. Bottom line is Excelsior is Mad Hatter's Den's best album to date, and probably the album by which all other albums will be judged. Easily recommended.
Excelsior is Mad Hatter's Den's best album to date, and probably the album by which all other albums will be judged. Easily recommended.
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