Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Album Review: Tad Morose - St Demonius

It's been a long time since Tad Morose was a name that meant anything in the world of traditional and power metal. For years, they were building a name as an intriguing force that was moving the sound in a heavier direction. Their album "Matters Of The Dark" is still a favorite of mine, and "Modus Vivendi" is the album that most people consider their crowning achievement. They had everything going for them, but then the band began to crumble. It took them eight years to replace Urban breed and put out a new record, and when they finally did, it was a shadow of what they used to be. What I heard from that album was utterly forgettable, and didn't give me any hope for the resurrection of the band.

Now back for their second album in this incarnation, Tad Morose needs to make a statement that they were just finding their sea legs on the previous album, and that they haven't forgotten how to make good music. That can be a tall order when it's been so long, so are they able to do it?

"Bow To The Reaper's Blade" opens the album off solidly, with a thrashy riff that leads into a chorus that slows the song down, but emphasizes the heaviness. I'm not one of those people who thinks everything needs to be complicated to be good, but I can see where some will say the riffing is too simplistic. The 80s synth line is a nice touch, but I'm not sure the tempo shifting is well-integrated enough for the song to quite hold together. The parts are there, but maybe not the whole.

"Forlorn", which follows, is a better track. Everything fits together well, and the subtle backing vocals in the chorus make a huge difference. It stands out and sounds huge, which only helps to emphasize the hook. It's meat and potatoes songwriting, but that's where this version of the band is best suited, and the decision to not try to expand into more progressive territory is smart. Listening to these songs, and specifically the way the riffs and melodies are constructed, I think anything more adventurous would have exposed the band as not being ready.

As the record moves forward, we get a string of songs that all follow the band's blueprint; heavy, chugging riffs that lead into simple choruses. When they do it well, the songs are quite enjoyable. The downside is that, because of how the songs are written, much of the immediate appeal is placed solely on the vocals, and that's the one area the band isn't quite consistent enough. Ronny Hemlin has a tone that I don't particularly enjoy, where he sounds like he's oversinging quite often, and his writing isn't hooky enough to match what I expect of Tad Morose. There are a few choruses where his melodies sweep appropriately, like in "Darkness Prevail", but when you hit songs like "Black Fire", I couldn't even tell where the chorus was.

What I can say about Tad Morose is that all these years later, and despite the lineup shifts they've been through, they haven't forgotten what the band sounds like. They may not be quite as adventurous or energetic as they once were, but there's no mistaking this for anything but a Tad Morose record. There's something to those riffs that reeks of Tad Morose, and from that perspective this is a success.

Like the previous album, my conclusion when listening to "St Demonius" is that Tad Morose is missing the key ingredient to making a comeback to where they once were. I'm not saying that is necessarily Urban breed, since he has been involved in projects that fell short as well. But "St Demonius" is lacking the huge melodies and massive hooks that the best Tad Morose material used to have. Putting this on right after "Matters Of The Dark" is like night and day. It's clearly the same band, and the guitars are riffing as well as they used to, but the songs themselves don't make the same impact. "St Demonius" isn't a bad record, but it is one where you can obviously hear the band still trying to find their way.

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