|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Rockshots Music||Country Of Origin: Italy|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website: Metatrone|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 65:00|
Catania, Italy based Metatrone likes to refer to itself as “one of the most talented and skilled bands in the Christian metal scene (that plays) a powerful form of power/progressive metal deeply inspired by a Christian Catholic worldview” (as noted in its press material). That’s a big claim, and Metatrone is correct except where the ‘progressive metal’ designator is concerned. Dating to its 2006 English full-length debut The Powerful Hand, I always identified with Metatrone, a name standing for “God is since, now and forever”, as instead performing a “catchy blend of power metal and melodic metal” (referencing the 80% Angelic Warlord review). 2010 sophomore album Paradigma, a mostly Italian release that fell beneath the Angelic Warlord radar, pursued a similar musical heading, while the same applies to the most recent Metatrone full length from March of 2016, Eucharismetal.
The problem, however, is that the progressive aspect escapes me. Yes, you will find light progressive nuances to the Metatrone sound, but in no way is the group going the Dream Theater meets Symphony X meets Shadow Gallery meets (fill in the name of whatever progressive metal band you want) route. Rather, what I hear in Metatrone, at least from repeat listen to Eucharismetal, is an even joining of catchy melodic metal and heavier power metal laced with occasional neo-classical and symphonic tendencies. Metatrone, in other words, wears its European influences on its sleeves in no uncertain terms!
Eucharismetal breaks down between seven tracks in English, five in Italian and one instrumental. Handling with equal ease the material on both sides of the (English and Italian) fence is talented long-term vocalist Jo Lombardo, who “(brings) a clean and smooth sounding vocal style with very fine range (that) reminds me a bit of Rob Rock when he cuts loose and goes for a high note” (again, quoting the Angelic Warlord review). I am not willing to go so far as to suggest Lombardo sounds as if Rob Rock took a couple courses in Italian at a local community college, caught the next flight to Rome and fronted the Eucharismetal tracks at a nearby studio - in no way is he a dead ringer - but the comparison is uncanny all the same. At the very least it helps support that ‘one of the most talented and skilled bands in the Christian metal scene’ theme from the groups press material!
Lone problematic issue is how Metatrone utilizes occasional extreme vocals (courtesy of bassist Dino Fiorenza) alongside Lombardo’s classic tenor penchant. Yes, there are groups that strategically join elements of the melodic and extreme, with symphonic power metal act Divinefire (of Christian Liljegren and Jani Stefanovic fame) and Halcyon Way (melding multifarious forms of metal ranging from melodic to power to thrash to progressive to extreme) the most notable. The point of contention, however, revolves around how Metatrone is nowhere near heavy as the previously referenced and subsequently the extreme vocals - even if used sparingly - can sound somewhat forced if not out of place at times.
When the extreme vocals work, it results in some of the albums finer moments. “Molokai”, one of the five Italian cuts, fits the bill in this capacity from how it opens its first couple minutes to a trade off between Fiorenza’s gruff delivery (over a bed rock of staunch guitar) and Lombardo’s refined flavorings (as things calm to a softer tone). Moving forward the song maintains a melodic basis, with forthright guitars upholding the smoothly flowing refrain and keyboards lightening the enchanting verses.
“Wheat And Weeds” begins in similar fashion, as aggressive moments with harsh growls contrast with gentler passages in which clean vocals prevail. Maneuvering ahead, the song takes a decided power metal tone with rapid-fire double bass, epic based refrain and symphonic keyboards setting the heightened tone. Instrumental passage features a tasteful lead guitar and keyboard duel.
Extreme vocals play a less prevalent role on “Alef Dalet Mem”, relegated to coarsely repeating the songs title on periodic occasion. Otherwise, “Alef Dalet Mem” represents one of the albums finest, exquisite melodic metal with its intense feel and sharply driven if not too the point chorus. Likewise, “Latest News From The Light”, an up to date take on the Prodigal Son, rates highly. Lombardo’s pristine delivery highlights another refined melodic metal piece, as plunging bass interweaves with lighter guitar flavorings and periodic use of rumbling growls. A classy keyboard solo dances over rapid double bass instrumentally.
Final two tracks to make use of extreme vocals include “Beware The Sailor” and “In Spirit And Truth”. Former stands out with its straight on heaviness, darker with some over the top power metal lacings that bring to mind Germany’s Seventh Avenue. Growls make their presence felt following the instrumental passage, which again finds guitars and keyboards contesting. Latter starts slow and ethereal as if a ballad only to kick in at once to melodic guitar harmonies that help establish the polished mid-paced demeanor its remaining distance. A worshipful mentality reveals itself whenever Fiorenza growls “worship in spirit and truth!”
Final verdict? The extreme vocals work best on “Molakai” and “Wheat And Weeds” due to a need for them in terms of the contrasting heavier and lighter moments. Of the remaining four, they might not distract from the listening experience but (in my opinion) also do not play the same necessary role. It reminds me of what certain critics have to say about the appearance of Wonder Woman in Superman V Batman: remove her from the movie and in no way does it change or alter the plot; in other words, her presence is not required. I cannot help but feel the same in terms of the Eucharismetal extreme vocals.
Where Metatrone shines is when it steps outside the extreme vocal framework, such as on “Keep Running”. What we have here is a varied hard rocker, stilly slowing for its verses in which silky guitar harmonies hold sway only to pick up impetus for a riveting chorus that exhorts the listener to do literally that: keep running! Instrumentally, the song takes a jazzy-fusion feel in featuring a tasteful saxophone solo. Of all the albums material, this one is the most reflective of a progressive stance.
“Regina Coeli” is a symphonic metal masterpiece that includes all the trappings inherit to the genre: operatic female backing vocals, classically influenced keyboards, huge choir like backing vocals and elevated tempo in which dynamic double kick drum holds sway. A metal worship milieu reveals itself as said choir vocals continually repeat hallelujah, hallelujah! Albums best track by far!
As its title implies, “Mozart's Nightmare” represents a classically inspired instrumental. Metatrone takes opportunity to show off its licks and chops accordingly, with talented guitarist Stefano Calvagno standing out from his inspired riffs and soloing, while keyboardist David Bruno lends the classical element with his mirthful keyboard signatures. It would put a big smile on my face of the group recorded an entire album in this direction!
Album closes to four Italian tracks that, while in no way flawed, are also not quite distinctive as the better material here. At the very least, I am unable to identify with them in the same concise manner as many of my favorite English cuts.
First of the two are Italian versions to “Alef Dalet Mem” and “Keep Running” (“Lascia Che Sia”) in which there is no need to comment further. Of the original Italian numbers, hard rocker “Salva l'Anima” challenges for albums heaviest with its guitar focused impetus and raw edged mentality. “Una Parte Di me” potentially comes across repetitive due to its seven minute length (there is a slight progressiveness at hand) but is saved by some great falsettos from Lombardo and all out shred lead guitar of Calvagno.
As with fellow Catholic Christian metal project Enzo & The Glory Ensemble (and its 2015 debut In The Name Of The Father), I chose to forgo the CD route for the music download files due to an unwillingness to pay the high cost of international shipping. Hence, I do not have specifics to offer in terms of lyrics, which with the occasional snippet are difficult to understand. Production otherwise is spot on in highlighting all instrumentation, particularly keyboards and guitars, without a lot of unnecessary polish.
Eucharismetal adds up to an album in which I have somewhat mixed feelings. Yes, it is solid musically and the band exhibits fine musicianship throughout, but I am also somewhat put off by (what at times are) misplaced extreme vocals and a few too many cuts in Italian for my taste. Perhaps if Eucharismetal did not include Italian versions to “Alef Dalet Mem” and “Keep Running” the track listing might flow with less repetition from including a more manageable 11 tracks as opposed to 13. Still, if a fan of Catholic metal bands or those that merge melodic and power metal in general then Metatrone’s third full length offering Eucharismetal makes a good choice.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Alef Dalet Mem” (4:54), “Molokai” (5:21), “Beware The Sailor” (3:31), “Wheat And Weeds” (3:56), “Latest News From Light” (4:36), “In Spirit And Truth” (3:43), “Mozart's Nightmare” (5:09), “Keep Running” (5:44), “Salva l'Anima” (5:25), “Una Parte Di Me” (7:17), “Regina Coeli” (4:46), “Alef Dalet Mem” (4:54), “Lascia Che Sia” (5:44)
Jo Lombardo - Lead Vocals
Stefano “Ghigas” Calvagno - Guitars
Davide Bruno - Keyboards
Dino Fiorenza - Bass
Salvo “T-Metal” Grasso - Drums