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With their second album, 2004's confusingly named Nine, Sweden's Platitude achieve the remarkable feat of concocting a body of songs that is unquestionably rooted in heavy metal, undoubtedly steeped in progressive rock, and yet, remarkably, still quite palatable for pop consumption. Indeed, even as they firmly plant both feet (or 14, as it were) in those normally quite challenging styles, the septet never loses sight of each song's commercial potential. Of course, whether this well-meaning intention will actually translate beyond the more open-minded metal and progressive audiences remains to be seen, but it's definitely great fun to hear angry guitar riffs, machine-gun drumming, and the often pyrotechnic solos of Daniel Hall and Gustav Kollerstrom (fit for both thrash and power metal) combined with such catchy choruses and melodic synth lines. This seemingly conflicting meeting of opposites is first unveiled by head-scratching opener "Dark Mind," but it's especially on aggressive singles like "Trust," "Oblivion" and "Catch 22" that the formula reaches combustible thresholds -- said synths recalling neo-progressive legends Marillion as much as they do new wave romantics Ultravox, amazingly enough! The more extensive (though no less immediate) "Avalon Farewell," on the other hand, finally sees fit to stretch beyond the six-minute mark (evoking memories of mid-period Diamond Head and other more traditional metal acts in the process), but still manages to steer clear of typical prog rock's smorgasbord of embellishments with its still relatively simple arrangement. Yet another great set of singles in "Endless" and "Starlight" (plus a hidden track) bring the album to a close, and prove that Platitude may really be onto something here.

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