Review Summary: Those who enter the plague house may never escape. Not that they would want to.
I was apprehensive about downloading an album by a band whose name sounds as if it would be composed of teenage vampires playing power metal, but I managed to shake off my moniker-borne prejudice (I listen to Elvenking and Fairyland after all. A rose by any other name...) and give this album an earnest listen. That was possibly the best decision I have made all week, as Plague House Puppet Show is amongst the best fusions of power metal, hard rock and other conspicuous influences I have heard. It is truly the best of both worlds, combining the grit, glam and swagger of hard rock with the musicianship, melody, and flash of power metal. I must caution potential listeners, as this is the type of music that jumps out of your speakers, smacks you in the face, takes a hold of you, shakes you to your very core, and doesn't let go until long after the song is over. This all sounds rather traumatic but it is exactly what powerful music is about. That and copious amounts of shameless wankery; it has that in spades, too.
Twilightning started as an above average power metal band playing a plain and generic style competently. However, on PHPS the creative juices are clearly flowing and the music is highly eclectic while maintaining a thematic coherency. The influence from '80s hard rock acts like Van Halen, Motely Crue and Guns and roses is evident but this music has a unique complexity and nuance to it that makes it worth dozens of listens to those who liked it the first time. Dual guitars weave a suffocating knot around the listener's neck and the leads and solos decapitate them outright; either way the combination is deadly. A dazzling array of lead riffs, pick slides, pinch harmonics and whammy tricks is seamlessly integrated into the main song and it is a treat to listen to. The guitars bring a depth to the sonic landscape without sounding pretentious and are easily the driving melodic force aside from the vocals. Drums and bass give the songs another layer of complexity and do more than stylishly keep the beat they but accentuate the powerful sounds of the guitars. Throughout the album there are few definite albeit short keyboard solos and the stand-alone keyboard leads are sparse. Instead the keyboard player dedicates himself to filling the air, providing thematic passages and driving chorus riffs. Into Treason begins with an 80s synth line and is employed subtly throughout the rest of the song. There are a few flashy keyboard riffs in songs like Fever Pitch, Labricious Thoughts, and Diamonds Of Mankind but for the most part the keyboards are kept just below the immediate consciousness and yet play a notable role in the overall sound. It is clear that this is a guitar and vocal band and the keyboards play their supporting role commendably.
You heard right, more than anything else this is a vocal band. The flash and slick guitar heroism with the highly competent backing are really only the sideshow in the plague house. The singer has a slight shriek most of the time and lays down stunning vocals consistently throughout the entire album. Superb range, power, and relatively good stability and pitch in the higher register carry the sound to new heights. The vocals are layered tastefully on the high notes and the rest of the band provide a more than pleasant backing and there are times where
This is fresh and innovative music and it leaves the antiquated and stagnant brand of standard power metal in the dust, not for a more enticing brand of power metal, but for hard rock on cocaine on acid (more cocaine and acid, I suppose). Both power metal and hard rock fans recognize the need for highly memorable hooks and Twilightning definitely don't disappoint. It isn't even the vocals but the entire band for the entire duration of the album. Twilightning pack their songs with stimulating and seductive content to the point that they burst out of the speakers with a potent fury. Not only are these songs complex but they are highly original and infectious to the point that they penetrate the listener's stream of consciousness forcefully and without apology. There are raging hard rockers like Victim Of Deceit, Fever Pitch and the title track, and then there are more progressive songs like In The Fervor's Frontier and there is the obligatory hard rock ballad Painting The Blue Eyes; these songs add multiple dimensions to the album and keep it from becoming trite. Everything that fans of highly melodic rock and metal who still require balls and grit could desire is provided within this album. On my version there are also a couple of bonus tracks - one interesting but more orthodox power metal song with a larger role for the keyboards, and a cover of Alice Cooper's classic Wind-up Toy. Both are worth a listen.
This reviewer has entered the plague house and a part of him still remains within its walls. Out of the European hard rock/power metal that has come out in the last decade, this album is a good metric by which to compare the others. These songs are masterfully composed and
played with passion and conviction that commands an equally passionate audience. The song styles are diverse and The lyrics aren't anything noteworthy but they are not so bad and are sung in a way that makes them more effectual for those looking for meaning and emotion in a song. PHPS is a prime example of a band at their very best and it is a shame that it will likely be buried under the heaps of lower quality released by bands with less potential. It is rare that I make outright recommendations but if any of this sounds at all appealing to you, consider this an imperative to give the album a listen or twenty.