Let's face it, metal is a crowded venue. bands are packed in, shoulder to shoulder, and hip to hip. Even on your best days, you couldn't possibly spend enough time listening to music to make more than a prick hole in the talent pool. You're left to pick and choose what to do with your time; do you go for the sure thing and listen to the same bands over and over, or do you dare branch out and try to find the next big thing. For power metal fans, it's even more complicated. There are so many drab groups, doing the same old thing with little to no bravado that a day spent listening to Blind Guardian on repeat seems like the safest place to be. But then you'd be blind to the rising stars, the new bands that will have to inherit the fantasy realms some day. 4th Dimension are, with this release, only two albums into their tenure, but are doing enough to give hope for the future. On their sophomore release, Dispelling The Veil Of Illusions, they prove that there is still good old fashioned symphonic metal to be found.
What is disguised as a simple orchestral intro, Veil 3102 has a sudden and abrupt change; it explodes, quite literally. Dulcet strings are shattered by a blasting array of drums and guitars. These go on to form the backbone of the album, though it is one rooted heavily in the keyboards of Talete Fusaro. This doesn't mean that keyboards are a constant presence at the front of the mix, of course, but as in A Circle In The Ice, they form the central melody at critical junctures. You'll find a lot of traditional formulas at work here, in the timing and tempo changes from beginning to end. From a fast paced gallop to a soft crooning, the song rises and falls smoothly. And while Fusaro dazzles in the opening of Kingdom of Thyne Illusions, it should be the vocal melody that will catch your ear. However, it is trumped by darting keys time and time again, upbeat and astoundingly well placed. The downside to having such a strong presence at the keys is that it often leaves the guitars feeling inadequate, which it does here.
This dynamic shift leaves the mix in three layers; Fusaro and his keys, vocalist Andrea Bicego and his soaring tones, and the rest of the band. Guitarist Michele Segafredo provides a great deal of driving power on tracks like Quantum Leap, but he is more often than not reduced to a rhythmic role. As a unit with the rhythm section, you'll find a formidable trio. Another thing accomplished by this organizational move is the lack of an ill placed ballad, something that seemed inevitable on all power metal releases. ExtraWorld starts in a way that might suggest you've come to that point early, but the almost video game-esque keyboard movements inject more energy than any ballad could handle. And when the handcuffs are taken off of drummer Massimiliano Forte, a flurry of fills and double kicks can ignite the air around you. Maintaining that level of ferocity comes easy for this collective, which keeps the album flowing at a rapid pace. White Logic, which is nearly five minutes long, has little to no time to fester, instead rolling from verse to chorus, to verse to bridge to outro, where Segafredo has a strong if not short solo.
Even with Memoirs Of The Abyss slowing things down dramatically (literally and figuratively), the album never gains or loses momentum. It's constant level is a strength to some, and a weakness to others. Each track stands well alone or together, with The Watchtower as a prime example. It's placement after the breather makes its impact all the more important. Bicego shines brightly here, allowing his voice to pick up a bit of grit in the growing piece of distortion. The second half of the track is layered beautifully, showing off a balanced attack for the first time, seeing Fusaro and Segafredo trading barbs. It helps to avoid a stall out in the latter stages of the album, even showcasing the skills of bassist Stefano Pinaroli on Dissonant Hearts. Both he and Forte are far more important than their place in the mix may imply. The closing track, is a lessen in simplicity. It sees Bicego singing in a trembling key, atop just a light bed of piano and keys. It could easily pass for a song, ripped from the stages of Broadway.
For a sophomore album, Dispelling The Veil Of Illusions is both strong and safe. 4th Dimension haven't gone out of their comfort zone here, but still manage to give their listeners ten tracks of pure, modern power metal. Whether or not that is enough to separate them from the rest of the bands in the crowded pantheon of symphonic metal remains to be seen, and is certainly beyond our capability to judge. But with the talent they possess at every position, it would seem to be a logical conclusion that there is more in store for this five piece than this. Whether it takes another three years to produce a third album, or even five years, at least one thing is certain; it will be good. Their formula is a familiar one, but they've left themselves in a position where they can't do wrong. In the meantime, you can wrestle with the idea of having too many bands to listen to. But if you're a fan of power metal, you have run out of reasons to pass on 4th Dimension.
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