Like many bands before them, Swedish Metallians Manimal would appear to have a soft spot for Judas Priest. More specifically, they’ve obviously listened to 1990’s Painkiller opus rather a lot. One listen to the opening track on Trapped… the scorching Irresistible, lays that particular fact bare for all to see.
But, and here’s the rub, unlike many of those metallic compadres down the years, this band hasn’t simply got stuck on the title track from that storied metal classic of yore; like their heroes, they realise there’s more, much more to this heavy metal lark than banshee wailing and flight case loads of arpeggiated sweeps, meaning that Trapped in the Shadows is full to the gunwhales of big, brash, bold melodies and songs of the finest order. Not unlike a good Judas Priest album in fact.
Of course, they’ve a long way to go before they can really be mentioned in the same breath as the Metal God and company, but really, on the evidence of such storming metallic anthems as the excellent March of Madness, a bright future awaits vocalist Samuel Nyman, guitarist Henrik Stenroos, bassist Kenny Boufadene and drummer Andre Holmqvist.
The Dark features more helium-filled emoting from Nyman but holds back a little on the bombast, in the process injecting a little all-important light and shade in proceedings. Many metal bands these days a simply incapable of taking their feet off the pedal; Manimal prove here that a little bit of restraint says just as much as a whole load of overkill in certain circumstances. But only certain ones…
The title track reverts back to the Painkiller blueprint, being another earth-shattering slab of powerful metal shot through with bona fide old school sensibilities, whilst Invincible (a cousin of Irresistible?) keeps the pace – and stylistic integrity – up with some magnificent battering from skinpounder Holmqvist. The chorus is pure Halfordian bliss, whilst other parts of the song conjure thoughts of prime time Crimson Glory flitting across the ether of my subconscious, this is a dynamite combination, and Manimal certainly marshall these influences well.
Man-Made Devil heads of into eastern-tinged, epic metal territory, but it’s slightly sluggish nature marks the descent of the second half of the album into slightly less memorable territory. Silent Messiah is serviceable, if unremarkable speed metal fodder, and even a cameo appearance from Udo Dirkschneider can’t lift The Journey out of its prog metal doldrums.
Penultimate track Screaming Out lifts the spirit a little, with ringing, Queensrycheesque guitars heralding the track at its outset, whilst closer Psychopomp certainly ends proceedings on a suitably metallic note, living up to it’s title in senses-battering style. Even so, the listener is left feeling slightly dudded after the bright start this album makes. Trapped in the Shadows is the archetypal game of two halves, and whilst there are no real stinkers on the record’s back end, it’s the first section you’ll find yourself draw to again and again.
Trapped in the Shadows is out now on AFM Records.