Shadowquest – Armoured IV Pain
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
Like Dionysus and Saint Deamon before it, Shadowquest is a power metal supergroup of sorts with only one intention – to rock in the most Swedish way possible. It’s all here: big choruses, a pretty solid rhythm section to give the music some backbone, drawing in a lot of ‘80s influence, and did I mention the choruses? Taking members of both Dionysus and Saint Deamon and throwing in a few other musicians who get around in various projects (vocalist Patrik Johansson from Bloodbound, bassist Jari Kainulainen formerly of Stratovarius, and guitarist Peter Huss of Sinergy fame), Shadowquest seeks not to revolutionize the power metal genre, but to bring forth a solid batch of tunes. The band succeeds in that regard, but unfortunately does precious little more than that.
The first thing that struck me about Armoured IV Pain is how much Patrik Johansson sounds like Joacim Cans in his prime on this album. Which is weird, because he doesn’t bear this vocal resemblance near as strongly during his work with Bloodbound or Dawn Of Silence. It almost makes me think that the band initially tried to get Joacim to front this project, but it didn’t pan out so they got Patrik instead. Some of these songs would have been right up Joacim’s alley too, like the opening two entries, “Blood Of The Pure” and “Last Farewell”, which both ooze the ‘80s rockin’ groove that encompasses Hammerfall, especially the latter.
Armoured IV Pain is missing something though (aside from a title that doesn’t elicit cringing), and something pretty serious. It lacks an identity, and the band’s “Power Metal Mad Libs” name doesn’t help matters. Traces of everybody’s other projects sneak on here: “Live Again” wouldn’t have been out of place on Bloodbound’s Unholy Cross. “We Bring Power” might have been featured on an album fitting between Dionysus’ Anima Mundi and Fairytales And Reality if there was one. However, nothing compels me II come back to Armoured IV Pain, and I hVIII that because I want to like it. But no, I have to keep myself entertained with bad Roman numeral puns. It’s like Shadowquest isn’t pushing itself to be anything better than just “okay.” Nothing excites like it should. Even the best songs on here would have been classified as filler on another album by any other band featuring any of the members here. The staying power of Armoured IV Pain is nearly nonexistent. These songs are plenty listenable, but there is no depth or energy to warrant multiple listens. Not that Dionysus was particularly complex stuff, but Shadowquest is very one-dimensional in comparison even to that project.
And can I dedicate a whole paragraph to the awful Judas Priest cover at the end of the album? Because it is BAD. “Freewheel Burning” is one of my favorite metal songs ever. It’s one of those songs that could get me pumped up for anything. How can you not feel like a badass when Rob Halford belts out “WITH VICTORY ON HIIIIIIIIGH” and have it lead into one of the most legendary Tipton/Downing solos ever? The production on Shadowquest’s cover makes the song sound dry and lifeless, just like most of the music that preceded it. The cover also feels a few BPM slower than the original, which is mildly distracting. Patrik Johansson’s voice sounds uncontrolled and imprecise as well. At least they got the harmonized guitar part right, I guess?
Really, if you liked Dionysus and Saint Deamon and any other number of Swedish acts with tried-and-true formulas, Shadowquest might be up your alley. They will probably get forgotten in the mix though, especially with all of the amazing albums being released in the coming months. This one just doesn’t cut through.
3.0 // 5