Skylark - _The Divine Gates Pt. II - Gate of Heaven_
(Underground Symphony, 2001)
by: Alvin Wee (8.5 out of 10)
Eddie Antonini and crew are back with the second installment in Skylark's "Divine Gates" series (trilogy?). Once again Luis Royo's fantasy cover art almost steals the limelight from the music itself, and presented in the limited A5-digipak format, is simply a stunning sight to behold. Musically a continuation of their previous works -- and effectively a summary of the entire Italian power metal scene --, _Gate of Heaven_ simply bursts with symphonic epicness and soaring atmospheres, all the while maintaining the metallic edge missing in Antonini's solo work. Somewhat handicapped by the horrendously thin, squeaky production and Fabio Dozzo's typically nasal vocal style (another characteristic of the Italian method), the quality of the material still shines through in bursts of brilliant melody and emotion. The deceptively under-produced drumming holds the material together with deft passages of pummeling tightness, the equally understated guitars chug along contentedly in the background with the keyboards providing a subtle, epic backdrop, and it is Dozzo who holds court with an impressively charismatic vocal performance in the forefront. Tracks like "Lady of the Sky" and "The Heaven Church" clock in impressively at 11 and 13 minutes respectively, flaunting Antonini's mastery at creating complex, non-repetitive song-structures, and proving the band's eagerness to make the most of such splendid material. While Skylark never once comes close to Rhapsody's monumental orchestrations, the effectiveness of the music is remarkable considering its relatively effortless simplicity. All in all another masterwork by the maestro and team, reminding their country-mates like Drakkar and Power Symphony that it is still bands like Skylark and Rhapsody who are at the top of Italy's power metal scene.

Contact: underground.symphony@tiscalinet.it

(article published 13/5/2001)


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