Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Impellitteri - Wicked Maiden
   
Musical Style: Heavy Metal Produced By: Chris Impellitteri, Greg Reely & Rob Rock
Record Label: Metal Heaven Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2009 Artist Website:
Tracks: 10 Rating: 90%
Running Time: 43:00

Impellitteri - Wicked Maiden

The partnership between guitarist Chris Impellitteri and vocalist Rob Rock got its start in the early 80’s and the three song demo the two put together while members of the band Vice.  Forming Impellitteri in 1987 and recording a self-titled EP (a.k.a. “the black album”), the two went their separate ways – with Chris releasing the first full length Impellitteri album, Stand In Line, with vocalist Graham Bonnet, and Rob participating on projects with Driver, Joshua and Angelica – only to again join forces and put out the follow up efforts Grin And Bear It (1992) and EP Victim Of The System (1993).  As the 90’s progressive, Impellitteri released three critically acclaims albums that are considered mainstays in the metal community: Answer To The Master (1994), Screaming Symphony (1996) and Eye Of The Hurricane (1998).

After putting out Crunch following the turn of the century, the two again parted ways.  Chris recorded two more Impellitteri albums, System X with Graham Bonnet (2002) and Pedal To The Metal with Curtis Skelton (2004), while Rob pursued a solo career, releasing Rage Of Creation (2000), Eyes Of Eternity (2003), Holy Hell (2005) and Garden Of Chaos (2007).  In 2008 Rob again rejoined Impellitteri, this time to begin work on Wicked Maiden, an early 2009 release that is his six full length album with the group (and its ninth overall).

Wicked Maiden represents a successful return to the classic Impellitteri sound.  Now, by “classic” I mean that Chris, Rob and company have turned back the  clock to draw upon many of the best moments of their past: take the hint of commercial found on Answer To The Master (reflected in the presence of backing vocals), the speed and aggression of Screaming Symphony and all out muscle of Eye Of The Hurricane and boil it all down and you end up with Wicked Maiden, perhaps the finest work in the bands repertoire- or at the very least the best since Answer To The Master.

The album flows with perfect continuity, delivering ten songs of neo-classical heavy metal – unlike past Impellitteri releases there are no ballads or instrumentals here – allowing Chris and Rob to display their abilities.

Riff driven monsters such as “Wicked Maiden”, “Weapons Of Mass Distortion” and “Wonderful Life” find Chris in top form on rhythm guitar but it is as a soloist that he ultimately shines.  At times compared to Malmsteem or Satriani, Chris tears it up on lead guitar on “Garden Of Eden” – this reviewers choice track off the album – and boogie-woogie flavored “Hi-Scool Revolution”.  At this point it must be reinforced that the songs on Wicked Maiden are not generic book ends built around lengthy lead guitar passages (as can happen in the neo-classical genre); but, rather, are well structured in featuring notable choruses and hooks while allowing for complementary does of killer lead guitar.

As with all fans of Impellitteri, I was delighted to hear about the return of Rob Rock.  Performance wise, to say that he remains in top form would be an understatement- the album proves in no uncertain terms he has not lost any of his power and expression.  If in doubt then check out the full range to his voice he displays on “The Vision”, “Holy Man” and “The Battle Rages On”, three tracks of technical neo-classical metal, while on the powerhouse “Last Of A Dying Breed” he offers a trademark falsetto.  The melodic metal masterpiece “Eyes Of An Angel” even finds him adding a more even touch to his delivery.

Fast, powerful, intense and hard hitting are the first words that come to mind when describing the albums decisive title track.  Quintessential Impellitteri, “Wicked Maiden” burns its distance as Rob and Chris shine with their melodic vocal approach and juggernaut riffing respectively.  It is good to hear these two together again.  Lyrically, this one focuses on apocalyptic themes:

Better run from the wicked maiden, she's a war machine
She strikes without a warning, bring you to your knees
Her realm is filled with fire, across the battlefield
I see the death toll rising, a wound that never heals

Shredmaster “Last Of A Dying Breed” sounds as if it were written with Screaming Symphony in mind.  Heavy in capacity but melodic in form, the song amalgamates traces of keyboards (during its muscular verses) with hard edged guitars (for its high energy chorus).  Some high pitched falsettos and fast fingered leads round things out.  Perseverance is the topic here:

I must face all my enemies
Protect and defend what is mine
I will fight until victory
For I am the one, I'm under the gun

I must face all my enemies
Protect and defend what is mine
I will fight until victory
For I am the one, the last of a dying breed

“Weapons Of Mass Distortion” ranks with the albums catchiest.  With a literal torrent of guitar setting the tone, the song storms through its verses as occasional touches of piano highlight the backdrop.  Chorus wise, a laid back but gripping environs is put into place.  Some of the riffs here bring to mind Fires Of Babylon.  “Weapons Of Mass Distortion” is directed at the media:

Weapons of mass distortion, images and words
Slanted observations, truth is never heard
Opinions and conclusions that are lacking in the facts
Speculation junkies feel the monkey on their back

Can you really believe anything you hear talking through your radio?
I don't buy it!
Can you believe everything you see coming through your TV screen?

“Garden Of Eden” reminds me of “Master Of Disguise” (off Eye Of The Hurricane) in terms of its musical and lyrical direction.  Straightforward and no-frills metal, the song moves its distance in up-tempo fashion with a driving wall of rhythm guitar leading the way.  Backing vocals sustain its smooth sounding chorus.  Chris steps forward with the albums best – and longest – stretch of lead guitar.  The lyrics to “Garden Of Eden” prove self-explanatory:

In the garden of Eden - There's the devil in disguise
Garden of Eden - Standing right before your eyes
In the garden of Eden - There's a snake inside the grass
Garden of Eden - And you're gonna taste the wrath

I see the world, it's so empty
Paradise lost from the sin of a man

The adept lead guitar continues into the opening to “The Vision”.  This one brings a touch of the technical, slowly maneuvering its verses at a settled mid-paced clip only to gain momentum for a chorus in which rapid double bass makes its presence felt.  Keyboards and piano add to the inspired scene.  “The Vision” touches upon the second coming:

I see the lightning strike as it shoots across the sky
I hear the thunder roll as it shakes the earth inside
Bringing down the wrath of God for the sins of Babylon
All eyes on the Son of Man as he steps down from the clouds

Send us to oblivion, shake the hand of wrath

The mega melodic “Eyes Of An Angel” has “For Your Love” (off Screaming Symphony) written all over it.  But if I were to invite a direct comparison it might be “Calling Angels” (from Rob’s 2005 solo album Holy Hell).  Melodic but heavy, the song proves non-stop infectious with its vocal harmony driven chorus and abundant up-tempo momentum.  I challenge you to keep this one out of your head.

“Hi-Scool Revolution”, with its touch of blues driven groove, would not sound out of place on Grin & Bear It.  While I am sure it has been decades since any of the guys have seen the inside of a high school, this one also stands out with its notable chorus hook- not to mention the resounding feel to its low end and mean sounding run of lead guitar.  Similar to “Eyes Of An Angel”, “Hi-Scool Revolution” brings a change of pace without a drop in quality.  The lyrical themes presented seem to be drawn from Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”:

Eight O'clock sharp and the bell has rung
School doors open and my mind goes numb
Too many teachers, too many rules
Too many texts on my cell phone too

Books and papers, pencils and pens,
Math and science just ain't my friend
I need a life, it's a waste of my day
To hear you babble for my stinkin' grade

The first couple of times I heard Wicked Maiden I felt that “Wonderful Life” was its weakest track.  How wrong I proved with repeated listen.  The chorus – reinforced by keys and smooth backing vocals – really grew on me in time – while some of the riffs – particularly during the songs instrumental moments – almost have a thrash-like touch to them.  Needless to say, it’s an interesting combination that, again, drew me in with repeated listen.  The glorified rock and roll lifestyle is the subject at hand:

Little man, dressed to kill, pretend you got the life
Mercedes Benz, three years lease, but you can't pay the price
Look at you, big rock star, living above the crowd

But fantasy is all it is when you're walking tall and proud
Time will come to pay your debt and taste reality
But no one's there to stop and stare, you're living in a dream

The albums most creative track?  How about “Holy Man”.  The song begins to a driving instrumental opening that abruptly transitions to narration backed by piano and rhythm guitar- with the end result an eerie atmosphere that hints at Bride’s “Heroes” (off Live To Die).  Moving forward, “Holy Man” details the life of Christ as it maneuvers through times changes galore, including a return to the previously referenced narration.  This is the most progressive I have seen Impellitteri.  As already mentioned, “Holy Man” deals with the life of Christ:

Out in the desert you faced it alone, temptation that comes from the foe
Blessing the weak and then healing the poor,
There's no place that you can call home

Warning the masses, the kingdom is at hand
Coming in power, the end of the age,
The one that they call "Son of Man"

I could not think of a more appropriate way to end the album than “The Battle Rages On”.  Opening calmly to a keyboard based introduction, the song explodes in full fury once the rhythm guitar kicks in.  As pummeling double bass and a swarthy environs prevail, “The Battle Rages On” charges ahead to its catchy chorus prior to reaching an instrumental section upheld by a brazen guitar solo.  The lyrics here center around spiritual warfare:

In the war between good and evil
The battle rages on
In the fight between light and darkness
The armor must be strong

In the war between good and evil
The battle rages on
There's a line between light and darkness
That crosses every realm

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Wicked Maiden” (4:00), “Last Of A Dying Breed” (3:12), “Weapons Of Mass Distortion” (3:51), “Garden Of Eden” (5:13), “The Vision” (4:56), “Eyes Of An Angel” (4:15), “Hi-Scool Revolution” (4:36), “Wonderful Life” (4:02), “Holy Man” (4:15), “The Battle Rages On” (4:42)

Musicians
Rob Rock – Lead Vocals
Chris Impellitteri – Guitars & Keyboards
James Pulli – Bass
Glen Sobel - Drums

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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