I remember coming across Trick Or Treat during the height of my power metal days, which have fortunately ended. They were the ultimate Helloween clone, not only taking a name that was also a play on the October holiday, but also because the first time I heard them, they were joined by Michael Kiske for a track. While I continue to hate everything Kiske puts his voice on, I do have to say I can still remember that track, which shows that Trick Or Treat can write a song or two. We now get the second part of their conceptual album, which tells the story of the novel, "Watership Down". This review isn't going to talk about the story, or how it connects to the previous album, because I missed out on that one when it came out, and because I've always believed that even part of a double album needs to be able to stand on its own.
The album gets off to the usual start, with a minute of building sound leading up to the first bursts of frantic power metal. They come out of the gates flying, with the guitars and drums pounding away at a relentless pace, galloping along like hundreds of power metal songs have in the past. The now familiar voice of Alessandro Conti (also in Luca Turilli's version of Rhapsody) belts out a big chorus, backed with a nice choir. They even throw in a few elements to mix things up, including some harsh vocals to segue out of the melody. It's a solid start.
That immediately segues into an acoustic, medieval ballad, which really shouldn't have been placed there. The record hadn't built up any momentum yet, and it was slowed down by not just a ballad, but one that doesn't even last for three minutes. It would have been a better flow if it occurred later on the record, or at least if it built up to an electric flourish that fit the rest of the songs. Compare it to "Cloudrider", and it's obvious which song should have followed which. "Cloudrider" has the right bounce to it, and a chorus that is uplifting and engaging. It makes a much better opening combination than the ballad does. And I say that as someone who is an admitted sucker for a good ballad.
The other issue I have is that for a concept album, which means the lyrics are integral to getting the story across, too many of the vocals are buried by Conti's accent. Like Kiske, he isn't always clear in his enunciation, which I find a sin in most cases, but a cardinal one on a concept album. Then there is an oddity when Tim 'Ripper' Owens guests on "They Must Die". Whether it's reality, or a quirk of mixing, he sound like he's shrieking at the top of his lungs, but can't match Conti's normal volume. It makes Ripper sound weak, which if I'm being snarky, isn't hard to do.
Really, though, the judgment about the album comes down to what you think of power metal. If you like the traditional sound of power metal, Trick Or Treat does it well. They write a better hook than most of the bands following the blueprint, that is for sure. Myself, I was hoping for something a little bit different from a concept album like this. It's certainly a good record, don't get me wrong. I'm just not in a place anymore where traditional power metal does much for me unless it's truly stellar. That said, whether you know the story or not, "Rabbits' Hill Pt 2" does the tried and true very well.