Monday, September 10, 2012

Mad Hatter's Den – Dark Wheel EP

Mad Hatter's Den, who in all likelihood owe their name to the tales of certain Alice, are a quintet from the Pirkanmaa region of Finland. The group has previously gained fame as one of the more prominent Finnish Iron Maiden coverbands called Coverslaves. The MCD, dubbed Dark Wheel, is the band's first published record, although they have been somewhat active on live stages prior to the release of Dark Wheel, most often "warming up" for their more established Coverslaves act.

Dark Wheel is a prestigious and polished release for a debut CD. Taage Laiho of Kilpi/Ghost Machinery fame has lent his voice to all songs on the album but is apparently not a permanent member according to the website. The lyrics were contributed by Erkki Seppänen (Dreamtale, Ку́рск, Coverslaves) for all tracks apart from track 5, the lyrics of which were written by Pekka Snellman (Coverslaves). All compositions have been handled by the band's guitarist and leading character Jaakko Hänninen. The musicianship presented throughout the album is on a professional level both in terms of sound and handling of instruments: these guys have definitely played together before. The biggest gripe ironically is the person with the greatest experience, i.e. Taage, but not to the point where it would become distractingly obvious; however, at certain points he sings a little too high and it doesn't sound very good (portions of Drain the Fountain spring to mind).

Iron Maiden are a clear influence here with the twin guitar harmonies and the trademarkedly galloping to an extent, followed up by some more generic straight-forward melodic heavy metal lines and a sweet scent of power metal. Add 70s-80s synth sounds in the mixture and we've arrived at Dark Wheel. In fact, if Iron Maiden + Kilpi (and perhaps Altaria) were combined, this is what it would probably sound like.

Dark Wheel is not reinventing the wheel by any means, but it is a strong show from Mad Hatter's Den and leaves a promising trail to follow up to what hopefully one day will be a full album release.


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