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(64:34, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. A Dragon Shall Come 4:55 2. A Slave to Metal 5:49 3. Midnight Sky Masquerade 6:48 4. Goodnight Boston 4:41 5. Darkness Comes to Light 4:35 6. A Beast Abandoned 4:48 7. I Will Never Ever Stop 4:26 8. All Hail the Warrior 4:55 9. Kingdom of the Battle Gods 10:04 10. Spirit of the Elves 3:38 11. No Metal Son of Mine 6:25 12. Out of Control 3:53 13. Midnight Sky Masquerade Acoustic 6:30 LINEUP: Henning Pauly instruments Juan Roos vocals With: Stephan Kernbach keyboards (2, 5, 9)
Prolusion. SHADOWS MIGNON is a project put together by one Henning Pauly, a German multi-instrumentalist and composer who was highly active a few years back with the Frameshift projects issued by Progrock Records as the highest profiled of half a dozen or so albums issued by that label in a 3 year long span. This latest venture was assembled on a whim Henning heard some old school heavy metal on the radio one day and decided to write an album of such material himself. And brought with him long time associate Juan Roos to handle the vocals, while keyboard player Kernbach more or less accidentally got involved.
Analysis. Pauly is a skilled writer and musician, and if merit was based on skill alone this venture would be given quite a lot of praise. This isn't his first venture into the realms of metal; his 2005 solo album "Credit Where Credit Is Due" was an inspired take on this genre, but on this occasion the progressive leanings have been taken out to pasture. This most recent production sticks to what is branded true metal these days, with a few forays into hair metal territory. Roughly said, this album covers three variations of metal: The anthemic, self-proclaiming true metal fans' hymns that bands like Manowar have specialized in, generic 80s sounding heavy metal with fantasy lyrics as the main theme, and power ballads of the kind that was made by bands associated with the hair metal description in the late 80s and early 90s. All of the songs sound vaguely familiar, yet the details in the individual compositions are rather different. And I do suspect that on quite a few occasions Pauly has taken stylistic elements from several different bands and mixed them in the various compositions Goodnight Boston sounds like a White Lion power ballad with Axel Rose on vocals, while A Beast Abandoned has a bass line as the foundation that is more Iron Maiden in sound than anything Steve Harris and his crew have managed to come up with for the last decade or so, while the rest of the elements in that song bears no resemblance to that band at all. Other influences on this excursion are Manowar and Helloween, and I would guess that German metal fans in particular easily could name many other acts whose various signature compositional elements can be detected on this creation. The metal of the 80s and 90s were to some extent a genre of music derivative in itself and Pauly has purposefully covered the most cliched and thus most derivative forms of this genre. And I would wager a guess that he's done it in such a manner that most anyone fond of this style of music will love this production as well. However, one detail might be a bit off-putting to some. In the lyrical department, Pauly has had a field day on this one. He has taken the lyrical directions of the genre and given some really over the top takes on them. The metal anthem for instance: We rock you roll burn your socks out of control. Or a track like No Metal Son of Mine where the storyteller more or less disowns his child as he doesn't get into metal as a genre. From satirical and ironical pokes at the lyrics of the metal genre to over the top parodies and piss-takes on this aspect of metal, the metal fan without a sense of humor will have problems enjoying this venture. On some versions of this album a bonus track is attached that might challenge the notions of many metal fans on their genre in general and the lyrical contents in particular: A rather stunning and elaborate acoustic version of the title track with folk and jazz-tinged layered acoustic guitars contrasting the high fantasy lyrics of spirits, ghosts and demons in a highly satirical manner. Personally I found this track to be the most interesting on the album from a musical point of view, with elaborate and at times rather complex guitar layers creating an intriguing sonic tapestry as long as you don't follow the lyrical contents too closely.
Conclusion. "Midnight Sky Masquerade" covers the most cliched varieties of 80s and early 90s heavy metal to perfection, and I would think that any fan of that music, especially if they are able to enjoy humor at the expense of this style, should find the production to be highly interesting. For followers of progressive rock and metal there's not too much of value on this disc though; it covers a subset of music that is derivative in itself, and words like progressive, challenging and complex can at best be used for the lyrical contents only. Recommended to fans of bands like Manowar with a well developed humoristic personality.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 12, 2009
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