Italian melodic hard rockers Broken Arrow chose one of the queerest pieces of artwork around to grace the cover of their debut album, 2003's Abyss of Darkness. Like Disney's The Little Mermaid gone X-Files, its colorful depiction of naked mermaids, space-age submarines, and alien creatures is, at the very least, unusual. Even more unexpected, however, is the impressive quality and focus of the songwriting within. Despite occasional flashes of progressive rock intemperance, more often than not, the group keeps both its instrumental and thematic virtuosity in check so as not to interfere with each song's commercial aspirations. Established by the triple opening salvo of the title track, "Invisible Heroes," and "The Gothic Line," this blend of discipline and exploration yields a tightly structured, energetic guitar-and-synth attack reminiscent of Empire-era Queensrÿche, as well as other late-'80s also-rans such as Crimson Glory and Fifth Angel. Soloing never gets out of hand, the often chorused vocal deliveries are emphatic but not over the top, and despite eventually settling into a relatively samey comfort zone, isolated moments of inspiration continually crop up in ensuing numbers like "Stalingrad" and the two-part "Isaac Story." Already miles ahead of most clunky and overreaching Italian prog metal, Broken Arrow are off to a great start.
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