Mad Hatter – Oneironautics Review

Swedish Power Metal Band Mad Hatter Impresses with Third Album Release...

Released By: Art Gates Records

Release Date: May 24th, 2024

Genre: Power Metal

Links: http://artgatesrecords.com/artists/mad-hatter

 

Line Up:

Petter Hjerpe – Vocals, Guitars

Peter Larsson – Guitars

Samuel Olsson – Keyboards

Alfred Fridhagen – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Oneironautics

2. Lord of Dragons

3. Death in Wonderland

4. I Will Find My Way

5. The Witches of Blue Hill

6. Our Fears in Towe

7. Lost in Wonder

8. The King’s Guide

9. Temple of Time

10. Fire in My Heart

 

 

 

In the past, I’ve had mixed feelings about Swedish power metal vocalist/guitarist Petter Hjerpe, often enjoying the bands he’s been involved with musically but struggling a bit with his voice. This was true of both his current main band, Mad Hatter, and another band called Morning Dwell, with the debuts from both bands having a mix of songs I loved and some I couldn’t get into because the vocals were getting in the way. However, I’m always willing to give second chances and more, so when given the opportunity, I decided to give the upcoming third full-length album from Mad Hatter, the oddly named Oneironautics, a fair shot and came away very impressed!

Mad Hatter play a very classic style of power metal, mixing in the more guitar-driven nature of Helloween, the energetic, often overpowering keyboards of Stratovarius, and some of the quirkiness of Edguy, as well as occasional traces of classic heavy metal. In fact, there’s quite a bit going on with this band musically, as they tend to mix varying influences and styles into one cohesive sound, sometimes falling into the more melodic and catchy side of power metal, while sometimes adding in some extra edge and moving into much heavier territory. All of this is as true as ever on Oneironautics, as it’s a very high-energy album, with some excellent melodic guitar work and plenty of upbeat keys and catchy choruses, as well as some darker, more atmospheric sections, some almost carnival-like sections with a playful vibe to them, and some parts where the guitar work gets surprisingly aggressive. For a short album, clocking in at around 38 minutes, it packs in quite a lot of musical ideas, but it also manages to bring them all together nicely into a smooth, cohesive whole.

On a purely instrumental level, I’d say this album is probably the best I’ve heard from Hjerpe, with plenty of fantastic instrumental sections, including some which caught me by surprise, as well as a perfect mix of heavier parts and more melodic parts. Production is also excellent, with guitars, keys, drums, and vocals all being balanced out nicely so that everything sounds great. Songwriting is simultaneously well-focused and quite varied, in that the majority of the album is very fast-paced and upbeat, but even the faster tracks often do enough of their own thing to stand out from each other, and there’s also a couple of slower songs in the middle to change things up a bit. I found the first two Mad Hatter albums to be very enjoyable overall, but also a bit inconsistent, with some excellent tracks as well as the occasional weaker track, while this album is consistently excellent across the board, with a couple particularly outstanding tracks that manage to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

I mentioned at the start of the review that as much as I enjoy his music, I often struggle with Hjerpe’s vocals. Well, that’s another area that’s shown a ton of improvement on Oneironautics, as his voice sounds great throughout the album. Even on my first listen, I was impressed, and after a couple more listens, I decided to go back and revisit some of his past work to see what the difference is. The best way to put it is that his performance here is a lot smoother than in the past, and while he still varies his approach quite a bit, he seems to understand his limits better than before, which makes a big difference. His voice alternates between different styles, sometimes imitating the more animated vocals of Andi Deris, sometimes channeling the upper register of Edu Falaschi and sometimes sounding a bit over the top like Tobias Sammet at his best. While I found some of his high-pitched wails to be rather irritating and a bit pitchy on past albums, they sound great here, as he has more control over them and doesn’t overdo things as much. Overall, his vocals sound very good on this album, and while I still consider the instrumental parts to be the highlights, I also love all the vocal parts on this album, especially some of the choruses.

The album gets off to a bit of a strange start, with the first three tracks clocking in at under 7 minutes combined. Even factoring in that one of those is an intro, the other two tracks are also less than 3 minutes each, which initially threw me off. However, over time each of the tracks has grown on me a lot, with the two songs being especially great. The title track is a fairly typical intro track, with some nice ambient keys, and it has a slight film score feel, nicely setting the tone for the rest of the album. The opening track, “Lord of Dragons”, wastes no time at all, kicking off with some energetic keys with a very epic feel to them, before quickly mixing in some heavy guitars and blazing fast drums. The verses fly by at a blistering pace, while the chorus has some strong vocal melodies and is quite fun and catchy, with the final run-through having some excellent high notes. The keyboard solo in the middle is also very epic and high-energy, like all instrumental sections on the album. For such a short track, it packs in quite a lot, and over time I’ve grown to love it. Not much longer, the lead single “Death in Wonderland” opens up with darker, more atmospheric sounding keys, mixed in with some aggressive guitar work which pushes pretty close into thrash territory. Once again, the track moves at a fast and furious pace, with some intense wails from Hjerpe during the verses, while the chorus is more melodic and very classic Helloween sounding. The instrumental section is also fantastic, with some heavy guitars in the background and epic, very technically impressive keys throughout the solo. Overall, it’s a very fun track, and a good choice for a single.

My two favorites on the album are back-to-back, with “I Will Find My Way” coming first. It’s perhaps the fastest-paced track on the entire album, moving at an absolutely crazy pace, with drums firing off nonstop throughout the whole track, while the rest of the band doesn’t fall behind in the least. The track kicks off with some awesome neoclassical sounding keys before some heavy guitars kick in, and the track once again has a very classic power metal feel, with the chorus in particular being absolutely fantastic. As always, the instrumental section has a lot going on, offering up a nice mix of guitars and keys, and it’s clearly one of the highlights of the track. However, my favorite passage on the album comes on “The Witches of Blue Hill”. I think I slightly prefer the previous song as a whole, but this one is also fantastic in its own right. It opens up with a slow, very atmospheric keyboard passage before the heavy guitars kick in and it speeds up, once again falling very much into classic power metal territory. There’s a nice mix of heaviness and melody throughout the verses, with a subtle, yet sinister vibe throughout. The chorus is quite fun and catchy, with the final run being especially great, but the highlight of the track comes in the middle, with my favorite instrumental section on any track I’ve heard so far in 2024. It starts off very playful, with a carnival-type feel to it, subtly gaining speed through several runs, before suddenly leading into some heavy guitar work which uses a similar melody but speeds up further and turns it into pure power metal, eventually giving way to an epic vocal section and then more instrumental fun. It’s an absolutely incredible passage and caught me by surprise the first time I heard it.

Unsurprisingly, after two incredibly fun and energetic tracks, the band decides to tone things down for a bit. First is “Our Fears in Towe”, which moves at more of a marching pace, with steady drums and fairly subdued guitar work, led by some rather ambient keys. It definitely falls more into melodic metal territory, while still having traces of power metal in some of the instrumental parts. The verses are solid, while the chorus is melodic and very catchy, with a fantastic showcase of Hjerpe’s upper register. The instrumental section has a very classic Maiden feel to it and is one of the highlights of the track. Next is the ballad “Lost in Wonder”, which is my least favorite track on the album, but it’s still quite good. It once again has a bit of that carnival vibe at the start but in a much darker way, and it’s a very dark and atmospheric keyboard-driven track. Verses are very subdued, with some light guitars and vocals, while the chorus is solid but never fully takes off. The guitar solo in the middle is excellent, though, and is the clear highlight of the track.

The final stretch of the album starts off with “The King’s Guide”, which has a rather ominous intro, followed by some nice cinematic-sounding keys, and then the guitars finally kick in after around 40 seconds or so. It moves at a fairly relaxed pace throughout the verses, with a slight heavy metal feel, but the chorus is back into full power metal territory, going full speed ahead with blistering drums, heavy guitars, and soaring vocals. Next is “Temple of Time”, which starts off with some very Stratovarius-sounding keys. It moves at a fairly quick pace throughout, with some nice keys and melodic guitar leads throughout the verses, while the chorus has a very epic feel to it, with some of those awesome Edu Falaschi style high notes. The solo section is once again the highlight, this time featuring a rather crazy keyboard solo, with a rather complex and chaotic sound to it, but it evolves quite nicely and is very technically impressive. Closing out the album is “Fire in My Heart”, an upbeat, pure power metal song through and through. It has some excellent melodic lead guitar work, with a very triumphant feel to it, and it’s a very fun, very cheerful sounding song, with the chorus once again having a very classic Helloween feel to it, while the solo section is also very melodic and quite beautiful. It’s an excellent song overall and a perfect note to end the album on.

Before hearing Oneironautics, I was expecting a mixture of enjoyment and some frustration, as that was what my previous experiences with vocalist/guitarist Petter Hjerpe had delivered, but this time around the latter of those has disappeared completely, and instead, the album ended up being an absolute blast to listen to from start to finish. Obviously, the improved, more consistently strong vocals are a big help, but even in terms of instrumental work and songwriting, Mad Hatter have delivered easily their best album to date, and it’s one fans of the band are sure to love. There’s some fantastic instrumental passages, some great choruses, and a nice mix of heavy and melodic passages. Any power metal fan should find a lot to enjoy on this album.

 

Ratings: 9/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

 

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