Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mad Hatter - S/T (2018)

So here we have a band that has based their name, nay their image, on a character from a beloved children's story. I don't know what to say, it is either extremely stupid, or fucking brilliant. As for the story it is based from, "Alice In Wonderland" is certainly a classic. I have never read the book, but I grew up with the Disney animated movie, and I really dug the enormous amount of creativity that originated from the mind of Lewis Carroll. It definitely stands strong together with the rest of the Disney line-up. How about the recent live action adaptations? Visually they are stunning, but it kind of miss the mark in the story aspect, with a boring Alice and a Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp who both does what they seem to do in every Tim Burton production nowadays (also, calling wonderland "underland" is just incredibly stupid).

This is a music review though, so I better start talking about the album before I lose all of you. Mad Hatter is a power metal band from Sweden that was formed as late as last year. The four members are no amateurs by any means, but they are no big shots either, but we have heard them before in other bands such as Golden Resurrection, Dreamland, and Morning Dwell. So if you are a fan of those bands, then you probably will enjoy Mad Hatter as well, because it is under the same umbrella when it comes to sound.

So no, do not expect a power metal revolution here, most of the music are really familiar, but ultimately welcome since Mad Hatter never steps across the infamous "cheesiness" line, which might not work with the spirit of the character they are depicting, but it works for us listeners. It also helps that there is a lot of variety in the album, showing off different techniques to give a complete experience. Just the fact that the album opens up with a close to nine minute song is a clear sign that we are in for something really interesting.

There are a lot of imprints in this album from other power metal bands. "Fly Away" could have easily been a Gamma Ray song with its aggressive and high flying attitude, and the Finnish masters Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica are represented too in several songs, like the extremely energetic and epic "Go", where vocalist Petter Hjerpe is channeling his inner Timo Kotipelto. Hjerpe and the rest of the guys (Magnus Skoog on bass, Alfred Fridhagen on drums, and Eric Rauti on guitar) are doing a swell job going through all of these styles seamlessly, creating a cohesive record that never stays in one place.

There is also an impressive amount of consistent quality throughout this record, which is just another proof of how experienced these guys are. Sure, not all songs are epic bangers, "Bring Me The Moon" is a little too cute for me, "Phantom Riders" does not really fit in all too well, and the bonus track "Death Angel Sins" must have been stolen from DragonForce, but there is way too much good in here to let the bad stuff affect you. A lot of it is also really catchy, like "Dancing Light" that has a really effective "oh-oh-oh" choir that sticks like glue in your brain. Do not know if you can dance the Futterwacken to it though...

So Mad Hatter may seem like a gimmick band on the surface, a fun but shallow band that tries to be the wonder in wonderland. Turns out, the band is more than that, there is a lot of competent power metal to be found here that should speak to everyone who loves the European style. It is far from original, but I do not think they are trying to be original, this is a group that is just having a ton of fun, creating some passionate music for passionate fans. So follow that white rabbit down the rabbit hole, and join the tea party set up by a crazy dude who makes hats for a living.

Songs worthy of recognition: Go, Mad Hatter Shine, Dancing Light, Mad Hatter Become

Rating: 8/10 Phantom Riders


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