Despite the seemingly generic band name, Mad Hatter from Sweden are indeed the only band bearing this moniker according to metal-archives.com. On the other hand, their music is anything but unique, drawing inspiration from 2000’s power metal greats like Edguy, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray and Helloween. All name-dropping aside, every other track on the band’s self-titled debut album will automatically remind you of one of the mentioned legends. In today’s world, this is not such a bad thing, though it won’t win you a prize for innovation.
Extreme Power Metal afficionados (an extreme afficionado for Power Metal, not an afficionado for Extreme Power Metal) will recognize the names of singer Petter Hjerpe and drummer Alfred Fridhagen from similarly underground (not to say “unknown”) act Morning Dwell, whose sophomore album “The Guardians Of Time” brought me great delight. As such, I was quite excited for this new project of the duo. I will probably mention Morning Dwell a few more times, and you should definitely check it out if you enjoy happy Power Metal.
Mad Hatter opens as one might say daringly with an almost nine minutes long track called “Mad Hatter Shine”. Luckily, the song manages to catch your attention right away with neoclassical melodies in the vein of Stratovarius and soon after with a captivating chorus. Five minutes into the catchy track we are greeted with a reduction in pace as part of an addendum which brings to mind Tobias Sammet style compositions such as “The Seven Angels”. No need to mention Mad Hatter don’t reach these epic’s qualities, nevertheless it is intriguing to listen to their rendition of what Mr. Sammet couldn’t achieve today.
Compared to Morning Dwell‘s charming, but rather subpar audio production, Mad Hatter is clearly backed by a superior recording and mixing work. Sadly, ostensibly professional mixing and/or mastering crews these days like to compress their productions to death, squeezing out every breath of life similar to a deathtrap flattening a mouse. This results in terribly mismatching walls of sound and makes a rather calm, Edguy-ballad inspired Power Rock song like “Dancing Lights” appear just as heavy and urgent as speed power tracks “Go” and “Face The Truth”, both compositionally extraordinary at their game.
Anyway, most listeners will ignore this very technical side of music production and just enjoy the clear mixing which presents singer and instrumentalists at their best. Fair enough, the tracks are mostly high speed power metal cascades which warrant the over-the-top production at any rate. Listening to “Go”, “Face The Truth” or “Vengeance In His Mind”, the olden days of 2000’s power metal beckon. One couldn’t wish for a more explicit homage to European melodies rendered immortal by Helloween, Edguy and Gamma Ray and repeated into oblivion by millions of Melodic Power Metal bands in the early 2000’s. Now, that sounds cynical but I assure you, for a devout disciple of the Power Metal scene in all its forms every tune of Mad Hatter‘s debut is a stroke of genius and joy. Even more so in 2018 where most bands seem to have forgotten the virtues of good old Euro Power and decide to water it down with misguided attempts of progressive influences to seem more distinctive and innovative. Sad! Mad Hatter don’t play pretend, delivering a heartfelt and honest Power Metal piece.
Granted, it is more of a piece than a masterpiece, but songs like opening epic “Mad Hatter Shine”, happy-go-lucky banger “Go” or the extremely catchy “Vengeance In His Mind” showcase the potential of the songwriting faction, which is kept in check by ferociously average, yet enjoyable fillers by the name of [all songs I did not mention in this review]. I don’t know if “Death Angel Sings (Bonus)” really is a bonus track for certain markets, or just marketed as bonus track so you feel like you got more value than you should, but in any case you should make sure to get the album with it, it is one of the best tracks and extremely fast (maybe that’s why). And a note to singer Petter Hjerpe: Do more of the squealy-screamy thing with your voice like you do with Morning Dwell. That’s the spirit of power metal.