IMPELLITTERI – WICKED MAIDEN (ARCHIVE)

Out now on Metal Heaven

Five years have passed since the patchy “Pedal To The Metal” and it would appear during this time guitar whiz Chris Impellitteri has re-evaluated what Impellitteri is all about. So out is the mish-mash of styles of vocalist Curtis Skelton of the last album to be replaced by something long-time fans have been wanting for some time. That’s right vocalist Rob Rock is back in the fold and Chris has gone about bringing the sound back to bands trademark brand of guitar intensive metal. Whilst the albums throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s were all mostly excellent the new album “Wicked Maiden” has an intensity not heard before yet also has all the melodic vocal trademarks and big hooks and even bigger riffs so many metal fans have overlooked. Chris is not simply a shredder, the guy can pen a song too and couple this with an excellent production and all round virtuoso performances from fellow band members James Amelio Pulli on Bass and Glen Sobel on Drums and this is a cracking slice of metal.

The opening trilogy of the title track ‘Wicked Maiden’, ‘Last Of A Dying Breed’ and ‘Weapons Of Mass Destruction’ are intense, with bone crunching riffs, fast tempos and melting fretwork not to mention pounding drums all topped off with Rock’s vocal wails should see most metal fans banging their heads in euphoric glee, a great opening salvo. The slightly more mid-tempo ‘Garden Of Eden’ brings in a 80’s pop metal style edge with its commercial main riff which is sure to delight fans of mid 80’s Dio with its potent chorus. ‘The Vision’ sees the tempo drop a little for the verses before picking up for the chorus, this transition is a little unorthodox in its how it builds and doesn’t always sit easy to these ears, yet there are enough deft musical touches to keep the listener interested. ‘Eyes Of An Angel’ takes up back to the commercial pomp of the ‘Stand In Line’ album with its bluesy vibe and it delivers a treat, a quite glorious pre-chorus builds nicely into the chorus which would have been all over radio stations 20 years ago, however, whether it will achieve this in the here and now is unlikely, yet with the advent of guitar hero bringing back a whole new crowd to the music styles of yesteryear you never know. Next up is the weakest track of the album ‘Hi-School Revolution’, musically its ok, kinda a bluesy Van Halen style shuffle (think Hot For Teacher), yet the lyrics are a little cheesy for men in their 40’s to be singing about, that said the chorus does have a slight psychedelic edge which the likes of TNT have been trying to pull off lately and failing, Impellitteri do fare a little better but it still is one track that has me reaching for the skip button more often than not. Thankfully things get back on the right track with the highly impressive ‘Wonderful Life’ which sees the tempos back to ‘burn’ and a very intricate musicality in the non-vocal sections with strong guitar and keyboard harmonisation. Vocally Rob is at his best here, and the solo section from Chris is one of the most vicious on the album deliver his trademark speedy runs with some Van Halen-ish bent taps over a chugging groove. ‘Holy Man’ is another stormer mixing fast and slow heavy riffs to perfection; the chorus is one the less obvious on the album with call and response in the vocal department. Final track ‘The Battle Rages On’ (not a cover of the Deep Purple track) has a dark mystic vibe beginning with keyboard and bass before Chris comes in with another sublime riff. Vocally Rob delivers one of his darkest vocals staying in predominantly lower registers which is a nice contrast to his normal higher pitch style. A nice way to end 40 mins of metal.

Overall ‘Wicked Maiden’ is a success, the best of the bands past is mostly here, present and correct and in terms of songwriting is right up there with the best of Impellitteri’s back catalogue. Sonically its one of the best produced metal albums I have heard in some time; yet I would probably rate ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’ as a stronger album all round. That said, it’s a massive improvement over the previous album ‘Pedal To The Metal’ and with a lot of press here in Europe being generated by new label Metal Heaven, along with some slots lined up on European festival dates and a high profile new endorsment with Dean Guitars, it seems 2009 is going to be a very good year for Chris and the boys. Hopefully this album will dissolve the stigma that Impellitteri is nothing more than guitar shred, long terms fans know there was always more to the band than rampant fretwork and ‘Wicked Maiden’ is another album that can only widen the world’s perspective on the band. Do yourselves a favour and pick this album up pronto.
 
Hot Spots : Wicked Maiden, Weapons Of Mass Destruction, Eyes Of An Angel.
Rating : 92%

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