It was iconic cinema baddie Darth Vader that spouted the line “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side.” No shit. The brainchild of ex-After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans, HDK hits like a pick-axe wielding maniac on a rampage; straight to the point rather than adopting After Forever’s meandering symphonic / progressive / melodic / metal approach that often confused the hell out of people. Quite an unexpected outing given Gommans was the driving force behind his old band’s music and that he’s teamed up with rock-pop-metal-new age vocalist / lyricist Amanda Somerville (unfairly dubbed a “guest” artist here by the promo department) to create this death-thrash monster. Then again, System Overload’s hell-or-nothing approach could be attributed to the pair’s so-called innocence with regards to this heavier side of metal; if you’re unaware of the “rules” there are effectively no boundaries to contend with. Gommans and Somerville clearly thought nothing of stacking her melodic tones up against brash death grunts in a very anti-symphonic metal kinda way, either matching the voices up in intensity or playing both ends of the spectrum on a thrash backdrop. The album’s momentum is huge thanks to the drum insanity of Arien van Weesenbeek (Epica), Somerville’s vocal arrangements – shared out between herself and a few death and clean voices… including that of ex-Angra singer Andre Matos (!) – and Gommans’ scathing guitar work. Call it a veritable free-for-all of violence, faltering only when ‘Fine Lines’ shows up to close shop. Small potatoes, though, as ‘Request’, ‘March’, ‘Let Go’, ‘Fight Or Flight’, and the majestic ‘Pedestal’ (the best song Gommans or Somerville have ever written, separately or together) bleed originality and wide-eyed excitement all over the place. The push for HDK mark II is on, especially from this seat.
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