Atomic Opera

For Madmen Only

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The third and least well-known band to emerge from Texan producer Sam Taylor's prog-metal stables (the first and second were King's X and the Galactic Cowboys, respectively), Atomic Opera bore most of his trademark sonic elements: chorused vocals, eloquent spiritual lyrics, complex stop-start riffs, and an impressive combination of melody and crunch. In fact, the band's first effort, For Madmen Only, pretty much breached the gap between the aforementioned bands, providing a slightly less ambitious take on King's X brilliantly colored soundscapes (see "Joyride" and "War Drum") while dabbling in the Cowboy's "thrashier" tendencies (as in "Justice"). They never quite manage either band's consistency, however, stumbling on the rather uneventful "All Fall Down" and completely striking out on the incredibly irritating "Achilles' Heel," which plods along for almost six minutes while wallowing in supposedly deep, but actually repetitively inane lyrics (think R.E.M.'s "Stand" to the power of ten). On the other hand, they concoct a near-perfect single with the excellent "I Know Better," and just barely miss the mark with the dreamy "This Side of the Rainbow." Further highlights include the intricate arrangements of "December," "Blackness," and the epic "New Dreams" -- an awe-inspiring piece which gradually develops into a nine minute hard rock bolero. In short, this is challenging stuff which takes repeated listens to sink in. It will likely appease the King's X crowd, but will prove a difficult meal for the unprepared.

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