Labÿrinth - Sons Of Thunder Metal Blade Records - 2001 /images/covers/Labyrinth.jpg After the amazing success of Return to Heaven Denied, many people (myself included) were drooling in anticipation of Labÿrinth's next release, Sons of Thunder. Labÿrinth combines fast melodic guitars with great vocals and excellent keyboards to make a sound that resembles Keeper of the Seven Keys-era Helloween. Return to Heaven Denied was one of my favorite albums of 1998. At least for me, the wait for Sons of Thunder was excruciating. Its release date kept getting pushed back, but finally came to pass in Europe last August and here in the USA this past January. The band is composed of guitarists Olaf Thörsen and Anders Rain, singer Rob Tyrant (one of the best Italian singers), keyboardist Andrew McPauls, drummer Matt Stancioü, and bassist Chris Breeze. A bit of trivia for you: Labÿrinth comes from Italy, and the members use stage names. So why exactly was this album delayed? Labÿrinth wanted to go to a heavier sound for this record, so Neil Kernon (Nevermore) was hired to produce. However, the production Neil did was not to the band's liking, and they had to completely remix the album (rather than record everything again). Many people have said that the final production is terrible, that Neil Kernon's version had to be better (despite the fact that very few people, including me, have heard Neil's mix), and that this album is a disappointment because of it. Frankly, I think this argument is bogus!! The band had to work with an already-produced mix to come up with the sound they wanted. I think the final product (considering the circumstances) is pretty good. Sons of Thunder is a much heavier album than their previous two. The keyboards are not as prominent when the entire band is playing, but they are still very much there and they add a lot of dimension to the sound. "Love" is a ballad driven by very tranquil keyboard sound, and plenty of other songs feature the keyboards in great solos and melody lines. I will admit that the version of "Save Me" on Timeless Crime is better than the one on this album - the Timeless Crime version is not as heavy as the one on Sons of Thunder - but this version is still a classic Labÿrinth song. A beautiful keyboard line starts the song off with a dreamy choir background, and before you know it the rest of the band comes in, driven by a speedy guitar line. One of my favorite songs is "Chapter 1". The entire band shines on this song, especially in the intro (most of the intros to the songs on this album are great; they really get you into the songs) - the guitars and drums drive the beginning, and there are great keyboard sounds in the background. Rob really shows a lot of range in this song, and Olaf's and Anders' guitars are phenomenal. They come up with some great riffs, leads, and solos. The song has a nice change of tempo in the middle section, with some simple melancholic guitar picking. The instrumental section of "Elegy" is one of my favorites of the entire album; the guitars, keys, and drums really shine, especially starting from the 3:50 mark and going 20-25 seconds. Another great solo section of note is in "Touch the Rainbow:" the part that starts at about 3:16. "Kathryn" gives the bass some opportunities to be the spotlighted instrument. The title track is yet another highlight of the album, offering some great guitar riffs to head-bang along with. One more thing to mention: this album is a concept story, revolving around Louis XIV and his love for a girl named Kathryn. The story is not very compelling, but there are some great parts about it. Sons of Thunder has grown on me more and more each time I listen to it. At first I was disappointed with it, but I am now finding it to be quite a good album. While not on par with Return to Heaven Denied, it is a good follow-up. If you have not grabbed this album because of what you have heard about the production, you are missing some great music. To those of you who were disappointed with Sons of Thunder, give it a few more listens - maybe you will grow to like it more, just like I did.