Cellador – Off the Grid

Colorado’s Cellador is a name that was in my distant memory since it’s been over a decade since their debut was released. I remember seeing them at the infamous Jaxx (R.I.P.) in Virginia and remembered thinking there was something special going on with these guys because they played European power metal really well. Their only downfall, from what I remember, was their vocalist at the time. Wasn’t I surprised to see that they released a new album, Off the Grid. My first thought was did they deal with the issues plaguing their debut. The answer to that is an astounding yes. Although this album is not flawless, it’s a really well crafted and entertaining power metal album. While some of the better European bands that helped define this melodic and sometimes symphonic sub-genre have gone the “experimental” route, these guys release an album that shows that great power metal is still speed, melody, riffs, and solo battles between the keys and the guitars….and those solos better be fucking godly!

The biggest improvement here is the vocals. Guitarist and founding member Chris Petersen has taken over the mic and he’s a vast improvement over his predecessor. He has the perfect voice for the sound that this band is going for. Singing in a mid to higher register, there are only a few places where he sounds like he’s struggling whereas the vocalist on the debut sounded strained the entire time. The harmonies in the choruses are incredible. The album opener , “Sole Survivor,” is a perfect example of just how well his vocals fit the music. This is a speedy song typical of the genre. The vocals are very melodic almost reminding me of Jonny Lindqvist (Nocturnal Rites) in places, although not as nasally. The chorus is extremely catchy and the solos are incredible with a lot of dual leads and guitar battles. This is what I’ve always loved about power metal.

Following that song is the even better, “Break Heresy.” This song is so melodic and catchy. The chorus is amazing and the solos just shred. What also catches my attention here is how the songs flow together. Nothing seems out of place and just makes this album  even more enjoyable. The production also contributes to the flow of this album. The sound on this album is crisp and clear and was self produced with Mr. Petersen at the knobs and was mixed by Peter Rutcho, who has his hands in several projects as well as the studio in which this album was recorded. Whatever they did here works because the sound is spotless. Every instrument is mixed together so that nothing is stepped on or drowned out.

I also need to point out that the songs on this album are also much stronger than on the debut. Along with the aforementioned songs, the title track is a great song and it’s follow up, “Swallow Your Pride” is extremely fast with a Dragonforce feel to it, just not as sterile. The sheer speed and accuracy of this band is amazing. It just goes to show that these guys took their time and grew as a band because song after song on this album is an awesome power metal song. Even the metaled up Cyndi Lauper cover has it’s charm. Not what I would have expected but they do it justice. European power metal treads really close to the pop line on occasions. It’s just how it’s executed that decides if it works or not. “This Means War” follows it up being a bit heavier with some seriously killer riffs and great soloing. The chorus is really good with strong melodies and has become my favorite on the album.

This album is a breath of fresh air and could be the come back of the year. Really good power metal seemed to be fading away for some time but with this release, it seems that there are forces trying to keep it alive and true to it’s roots. Now that Cellador have found their sound, hopefully we won’t have to wait a decade for the follow up.