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Monday, November 25, 2013

Mad Hatter's Den – Welcome To The Den

Roughly a year has passed since we reviewed their first release, the Dark Wheel EP, and today Mad Hatter's Den are back with a brand new full album Welcome To The Den. The line up has stayed intact since Dark Wheel, but the vocalist Taage Laiho's presence in the band has solidified further and he now has lyrics writing credits for all new tracks for example. Hopefully this is an indication of stronger commitment to the band; that Taage is here to stay.

Welcome To The End comprises 9 tracks excluding the intro, out of which 3 have been previously released: Shadow Lord and The Dark Wheel from the Dark Wheel EP, and Stone Cold Flame as a single. That leaves us with 6 new tracks or 32 minutes of previously unheard heavy metal from the Pirkanmaa metallers.

Musically Welcome To The Den is a pure sequel to The Dark Wheel release as the sound is still the easily recognizable 70-80s heavy metal sound. There's perhaps slightly less of galloping guitars, but in contrast keyboards play a bigger role now, and not completely in the Hammond-esque way either; in fact, there are some very beautiful, not-so-Hammond-style melodies scattered throughout the album.

Welcome To The Den and Blind Leading The Blind are your generic -for the lack of better word- trustworthy heavy metal songs: they don't particularly stand out, but that doesn't mean they're bad. Easy on ears and a good introduction to the album as whole. Shadow Lord follows fourth and still sounds just as good as always -- no news here.

The fifth and the next new track, Sinister Monologue, begins with strange progressive guitar riffs which reminds me instantly of Powerwolf's The Evil Made Me Do It. The familiarity is shrugged off pretty quickly, only to drift into another type of familiarity: Iron Maiden -- reminiscent of something like Where The Wild Wind Blows. I cannot exactly say why, but we all have our odd associations. There's a particular atmosphere on this track and it's owed in great lengths to Taage's vocal performance which is nothing short of outstanding. Definitely one of Taage's high points on the album, if not across his whole career. Sinister Monologue quickly rises to the top position of the album so far.

Journey, which follows next, is a slow and mellow ballad, something that isn't that much to my liking in all honesty. And unfortunately Journey will likely remain the track where I just press skip. Fortunately, on the other hand, Journey is the only song on the album to do that.

If you're at all into power metal you've definitely heard Legacy Of The Kings by Hammerfall. This time Mad Hatter's Den aren't here to cover anyone and their rendition of Legacy Of The Kings is an instrumental, keyboard-driven show-off from the keyboardist Petja Puumalainen, who also has composing credits for the song. I'll be straight: I like Legacy Of The Kings, and I like it because it feels very 80s and classical. It feels like a tribute to 80s games and their soundtracks. And it also sounds like Castlevania! Anytime a song manages to do all that, I'm instantly sold. I would gladly listen to more of instrumental wonders like this one.

The last new song on the album is a cunningly named track Sharks Of Power which was released as a trailer for the album a few weeks before the actual album release, so I'd heard it before. And it kicks ass, serious ass, Duke Nukem biting sharks kind of serious ass. No time for chewing bubble gum during this one. The main guitar riff etches into your brain like a music-thirsty parasite. Alongside Sinister Monologue Sharks Of Power is the best new material this album has to offer.

The Dark Wheel and Stone Cold Flame conclude the 50 minutes of heavy metal and I'm left, again, with a very positive vibe -- even more so than with the Dark Wheel EP. Mad Hatter's Den continue extremely strong on their path doing what they do best: damn good melodic heavy metal. If you're looking to buy one heavy metal album this year, make it be Welcome To The Den. I don't think you'll be disappointed. One of the best releases this year, and considering the number of high quality releases from many notable bands this year, that's a lot to say.

You can listen to some of the tracks and buy the album here.

Sharks of Power on Youtube

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