Shadow Gallery – Room V
With “Tyranny” from 1998 being one of my favourite albums of all times, Shadow Gallery can’t do much wrong. Being as little productive as they are, each of their releases is highly anticipated by yours truly. “Legacy”, issued in 2001, was a bit of a disappointment in that respect. And as the years went by and rumours passed that they had called it quits, I started holding on to “Tyranny” even more. When “Room V” was announced as the continuation of the just mentioned great album, my curiosity was reawoken though. But I was only really happy when seemed that the new disc – only the band’s fifth in 13 years of recording – wasn’t only thematically building upon “Tyranny”, but also inherited its grandeur, its pomposity and much of its sound, albeit mingled with a modern influence or two.
“Room V” is, just as its conceptual predecessor, split up into 2 parts – “Act III” and “Act IV” – each holding 7 tracks. Starting off with an instrumental intro, followed by “Comfort Me”, a rather soft duet by Mike Baker, who’s in top form again, and Laura Jaeger, known from her contribution to the “Tyranny” album, the platter starts off rather hesitating. With the heavy “The Andromeda Strain” and wonderfully built up, superb ballad “Vow” however, “Act III” is really kicked off. Much more it doesn’t offer though, as it is closed by the – nevertheless well crafted and technically flawless – instrumental couple “Birth Of A Daughter”/“Death Of A Mother” and the short “Lamentia”. On to “Act IV” it is then, which has a lot more to it in my opinion. Taking off rather slowly as well with the instrumental “Seven Years” and atmospheric intermezzo “Dark”, it impresses with the beautiful and extremely catchy “Torn”. Watch that chorus as it will haunt your head for days, believe me. It is followed by the powerful, fast and very progressive “The Archer Of Ben Salem”, on which each of the band members – especially guitarists Brendt Allmann and mastermind Gary Wehrkamp – get a chance to display their wonderful talent and renowned abilities. Next up is the rather calm “Encrypted”, again including great guitar work. Finally, the very heavy, impressive title track – one of the best songs on here – leads us to “Rain”, the perfect anthem to end a great album with.
The way these Americans have found to update their trademark sound with a more modern touch has my respect at least. So has the production, courtesy of the band themselves assisted by Jeff Glixman (Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Kansas and Cinderella) for mixing duties. Need it be said that “Room V” is a definite candidate of the end-of-the-year album lists? I just won’t decide whether it surpasses “Tyranny” yet. We should leave that to the test of time