This is quite a surprise, as I never expected to hear from these guys again. Manimal (who’s name I hate because it reminds me of the ultra cheesy 70s sci-fi show) dropped a promising debut in 2009 then proceeded to fall off the edge of the world. I forgot them, life went on and then, BOOM! A new Manimal album arrives in my promo bin. Trapped in the Shadows (T.I.T.S. for short) features two original members and luckily for all concerned, one of them is vocalist Samuel Nyman, whose epic, Halford-esque vocals made the debut noteworthy. So what has six years done to the band? Not much apparently, as their style is still a cross between Painkiller worship and 80s style Euro-power. Geezers like myself are clearly the demographic for this vintage stew and I don’t mind the target marketing one bit.
As if to re-establish the band’s bona-vides after such a long absence, they open with the ripping “Irresistible,” which is more or less as advertised and as much a Painkiller homage/clone as anything Primal Fear ever attempted. Nyman’s stratospheric vocals soar over simple power chords and before you know it, it’s 1990 all over again and you’re drinking Meister Bräu. It’s a rote but entertaining tune and I’m such a sucker for this crap, someone else really should be reviewing this (but not AMG because he’s a hater). They easily top this gem with the much more overblown “The Dark” where Mr. Nyman strives to drag his scrotal nether-regions up through his chest cavity via the medium of screaming and high pitched wailing. It works much the same way any cut off Painkiller worked and it’s an enormous amount of fun to reenact the epic vocal delivery that must accompany such a banshee-like performance.
The rest of the album plays out better than expected, with the title track and “Invincible” offering more meat n’ taters vintage metal with exuberantly bombastical vocals and catchy choruses. “Silent Messiah” deviates from the Judas Priest worship for some premium Helloween adoration, and Nyman’s delivery is so surprisingly similar to a young Michael Kiske, that those pumpkin-headed fools may want to poach him for a final run at the glory of the Keepers albums.
While there is no stinker here, “Man-Made Devil” is a bit less inspired, though the slower, more grinding approach is a nice change of pace. Likewise, “The Journey” is just okay, despite the appearance of the legendary Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O., ex-Accept) on guest vocals. Sound-wise, T.I.T.S. is a pretty easy album to listen to. The guitars are given a lot of oomph and weight and Nyman is placed up front in the mix but not annoyingly so.
As with any band attempting this style of metal, the make or break factor is the vocalist, and Mr. Nyman can belt, wail and warble like a champ. At times he even outdoes the premier Halford imitator, Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear). His upper range is indeed impressive and at times he even reminds me of Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon, Heed) and that’s quite the compliment. He is guilty of over using his air raidy, outdoor voice which lessens it’s overall impact, but there’s no denying the man has more pipes than most plumbing supply emporiums. Axe-man Henrik Stenroos provides a plethora of hefty, crunchy riffs, and though a lot of what he does is right out of Metal Riffing 101, it works well enough for this genre. His solos are nothing mind-blowing but they check the boxes. Another guitarist would help with more dynamic harmonies but the music still succeeds more often than not.
T.I.T.S. is an enjoyably meatheaded metal album steeped in the classics, but if it weren’t for the above average vocals of Nyman, this would probably be forgotten pretty quickly. With him onboard though, this threatens to be the best Primal Fear album of 2016, though Primal Fear may have something to say about that later this month. The Battle of the Priest Clones is about to be joined. Pick a side, and no, you can’t be Bobba Fett.