Wuthering Heights
The Shadow Cabinet

Here’s a tip. It’s probably not a good idea to name your band after a book that everyone is forced to read in school and hates. It doesn’t really inspire people to pick up your record. Tip No. 2: Never, ever – fucking ever – send out a press release that proclaims your singer “the second coming of Ronnie James Dio.” Ronnie James Dio is, arguably, the greatest voice to ever grace a metal stage. Nils Patrik Johansson is a capable singer trying hard to sound like Dio, but with nowhere near the clarity and power.

Those two gripes aside, though, The Shadow Cabinet is a quite enjoyable record with solid musicianship and some interesting diversity. The varied stylings are made clear from the brief jazz-ish piano run that opens the record to the opening violin riff (can you call a violin piece a riff?) of “Faith.” The band blends power, progressive and folk metal into a potent musical concoction. To be fair, though, they’re much stronger when they rely heavily on the folk influence. At times, particularly on a song like “Faith,” the listener ends up just wishing they’d forget the by the numbers power metal interludes and stick with the cool folk sound. The slightly Scottish-sounding opening licks of “The Raven” are much more interesting than the more standard prog/power stylings of a song like “Demon Desire.” In fact, the second riff of “The Raven,” a grooving Sabbath-like line, is one of the best on the record. (Again, though, drop the “ohoohohoohoh” power metal chant and riff that just seems to be stuck in the middle of a much better song, please.)

Johansson does overstretch on a couple of songs. The gravelly, raspy voice he uses on “Beautifool,” a very Dio-flavored song, serves to show how much better the legend is. Likewise, when he tries for the higher pitched Hansi Kursch vocal at the beginning of the heavily Blind Guardian influenced “Envy,” it fails miserably. He does redeem himself with the more aggressive work later in the song that rescues it from a bad case of Blind Guardian envy. I won’t even talk about the a cappella attempt at Robert Plant that opens “Sleep.”

I realize it sounds like I don’t like the record or Johansson, which isn’t the case. As I said before, he’s a capable singer who just needs to figure out his zone and keep it within those bounds. (And I also realize that he can’t help the press release comparison and would probably never compare himself with Dio.) I’m impressed by the versatility of band leader Erik Ravn and his fellow guitarist Martin Arendal, and drummer Morten G. Sorenson works his butt off on the record. I also find their use of classical instruments and folk themes intriguing. I just wish they’d explore that aspect of their music more and give less time to those power metal runs that we’ve all heard over and over and over.

Ultimately, there’s more to like on The Shadow Cabinet than there is to dislike. It’s definitely worth checking out for fans of folk-influenced power metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
May 5th, 2007


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