Manimal - Trapped in the Shadows

Manimal Trapped in the Shadows cover
Trapped in the Shadows
AFM Records
It might have taken the Gothenburg quartet about six year to come up with a sophomore since their pretty amazing debut back in 2009, but they are amazingly back, after all this time and not worse for wear… continuing to pump out some pretty edgy and “serious” power metal that doesn’t have to resort to cheesy melodies, or sound like a bad Helloween knock off to make things interesting. A lot more “Priestly” in its approach with the vocals and British/American in the riffs, these Swedes sound a great deal like a more straightforward, less gimmicky and more powerful than your average European power metal that either sounds like a bad clone of Blind Guardian or even worse a cheesier Helloween. These guys take the best aspects of bands like Priest, Bloodbound, Tad Morose and to a lesser degree Primal Fear (who are lately faltering) and such and concoct a delicious aural bouillabaisse that is served piping hot…
Opener “Irresistible” has a quite apt name and is heralded via a riff that really screams Judas Priest only to be followed by equally impressive singing by Sam Nyman.
“March of Madness” is a bit more measured and gravitates a lot more to typical power metal, without being bad.
However, “The Dark” that follows it is much better, both continuing the mid-tempo, but doing it in a very playful way with some glorious soaring vocal melodies and discreet keys, making this otherwise rather unassuming track, quite a standout.
“Trapped in the Shadows” is another cool number with a light essence of King Diamond invading the power and the metal… mostly in the chorus…
“Invincible” is a middle of the road number, nothing bad about it, but probably hardly anything to propel it either, it just happens without exciting all that much.
“Man Made Devil” drops the speed a few notches and tries to play the “atmosphere” card, but it marginally loses, because of its simple chorus… it’s pretty clear to see where the band was going with this, but they “just” fall a little short from producing another show stealer.
“Silent Messiah” starts furiously and maintains its tempo, but in its verses, it manages to create some antithesis with its clever ideas. Also Nyman tries to offer some variation and manages to do so. He’s a great singer with my only qualm being that when he attacks some notes, his ascent is too short and as he does sound a little nasal, it can sound like a weaker version of Halford that at times is not all that complimenting. The song also wastes about a whole minute (4>5) quite aimlessly, regurgitating themes, before reprising the chorus and exiting.
“The Journey” is quite more interesting, because, it’s a lot slower, almost doomy and dueting with Nyman is none other than Udo Dirkschneider (UDO, Accept) in an interesting compo.
“Screaming Out” is charming enough, until the band considers it a good idea to add a children’s choir, which really is not very compatible with the rest of the song, a rather bad idea that doesn’t kill the song, but definitely takes away a bit of it’s dynamic. Nice solo too.
Closer “Psychopomp” also continues in a mid-slower tempo, just like its predecessor. Nyman again uses both his falsetto and normal voice in what sounds more interesting than him just “falsettizing” almost the entire song… as it adds character. Apart from a chorus that could have been a little better, it’s pretty good with a nice extended solo…
Overall, a promising band returns with a sophomore that doesn’t break its promises and largely delivers, but marginally fails to outdo, the darker and somewhat heavier “The Darkest Room”. It’s really a pity, because I think that if the band had fine-tuned a couple of more choruses in a couple of songs that would have made the album so much more solid. Still compared to the myriads of crappy power metal albums that flood the scene, this is quite the apocalypse. Welcome back.