Mad Hatter’s Den – Welcome To The Den
Reviewed by Christopher Foley
I guess Vorpal Nomad isn’t the only heavy metal act stopping in for a certain tea party. Finnish upstarts Mad Hatter’s Den invite us to their namesake, a place where life and death collide with their brand of occasionally odd-ball modern heavy/power metal, helmed by Taage Laiho, whose performances I absolutely adored in fellow countrymen Altaria. (What on earth happened to those guys?)
Whilst I’ll admit from the starting line that I was hoping for a little more from Mad Hatter’s Den, there is some good stuff despite the album’s decidedly stodgy middle. If there’s one thing I immediately appreciated with these Finns, it has to be their upfront approach, which is particularly evident in the first half of the album. Yeah, the first few songs present an undeniably fun romp, what with the delightful rollicking guitar riffs, seventies style keyboards/organs, and Taage Laiho’s brilliant vocals. Man, I love that guy. His smooth, professional manner certainly springs to mind Altaria flashbacks, which are at their most noticeable in the latter half of the album.
The band’s strength lies in shorter, up-tempo numbers, and when they deviate from this approach, proceedings can go a little awry. The middle of the album is without a doubt a little hard to digest, as the band opts for some longer songs that really aren’t all that necessary. I’ll admit “Journey” has some cool Rush-isms going for it, which is kind of odd – although appreciated – but “Sinister Monologue” leaves me yearning for my pillow. It’s a shame, because what comes before – and maybe more importantly what comes after – is a whole load of fun. Granted these middle numbers do try something different and not exactly typical of the genre; but when something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
Fortunately, the latter half of the album takes us back to the roaring ruckus that the album ignited with in the first place, and it’s all smiles on this end. Riffs fly, rhythms pound, and Taage flat out nails it with his ever-endearing vocals. “Sharks Of Power” gives me those Altaria flashbacks, and boy o’ boy do I get my rocks off to its AOR-meets-power metal styling, aw yeah! I wish this kind of quality could have been maintained throughout the album; it’s nothing original or new, but it’s the some of the best fun you’ll have outside of a bouncy castle party at the Playboy mansion.
Despite slowing down in the middle I just can’t deny the former and latter halves of the album. It makes me happy, gets my feet tapping, and as such leaves me forgiving of any negative aspects I’ve found on Welcome To The Den. On the whole, this is a good mix of European power metal with some hard rock/AOR aspects and some straight up heavy metal tendencies. You won’t find anything amazing here, but I guarantee you’ll be smiling at numerous moments throughout the album – if not, then you probably weren’t invited to the party in the first place.
3.5 // 5