Something borrowed, something new, all things Metal, all things true.
Under the guidance of Swede Petter Hjerpe, MAD HATTER proudly enters an already overcrowded arena of Power Metal bands. Thankfully, through stellar musicianship, an exquisite production, and often intricate Progressive variety and arrangement their 2018 self-titled debut ‘Mad Hatter‘ impresses.
Still, much of what’s here sounds overly familiar in a fairly straightforward riff off of Germanic legends HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY. Despite that notable inspiration, I prefer more originally for 2018.
Hjerpe handles most of the instruments and Vocals with Drummer Alfred Fridhagen and DANGER DANGER Lead Guitarist Rob Marcello in support. His strong, conventional Power voice handles the acrobatics without incident while 1980s themed keyboards offer nice stand-apart flourish.
As a concept album, ‘Mad Hatter‘ dives into Lewis Carroll’s titular maniac, displaying a wide gamut of emotional lyrics and melodies. With “Mad Hatter Shine” and “Mad Hatter Become” acting as Prog Metal origin story bookends to a “mad” story laced with both whimsy and tragedy.
Going beyond the norm elevates a few songs to higher purpose. “Dancing Lights” brings emotive vocals and melancholic hooks. While “Vengeance In His Mind” threads darkness through an epic Power Prog sweep of axes and keys. And “Death Angel Sings” adds precision Neoclassical soloing and operatic chorals, ending the album on a note of Speed Metal class.
Being an exceptional musician in a seemingly bottomless pool of talent is no longer as special as it once was. Boldness and originality are required to leap out from the fray. So, despite the near-perfect performances and production and an abundance of classy, hook laden Power Prog anthems MAD HATTER’s solid debut proves a “maddening” exercise in missed opportunities.