Sometimes all we want is for an album to come along and kick our ass. That is, in essence, what heavy metal has always been about, at least since the bands that were initially spawned from the days of Black Sabbath came to life. You didn't need to have artistic sensibilities to listen, nor did you need any sense of nuance. Metal was the music that was heard and heavy, the soundtrack to a party in Hell. Somewhere along the way, we've lost a lot of that sense of hedonistic fun that used to imbue the best of what metal had to offer, but every so often a band comes along that manages to remind us of the good old days.
Scelerata is one of those bands that plays metal the way it used to be, fast, heavy, and full of good time attitude. “The Sniper” is a well-crafted modern take on the heavy metal Iron Maiden spawned in their heyday. Filled with blazing riffs, melodic solos, and larger than life vocals, the album is a glorious reminder of what heavy metal was in the days before it became uncool to have fun with music. “In My Blood” has all the trappings of great heavy metal, with a hybrid thrash riff that winds through a solid melodic chorus before deciding that wasn't good enough, and bursting into an even bigger chorus. Ripped from the days when more was more, the song abides by that mindset.
“Road To Death” slows things down, but doesn't skimp on the metal bravado. Mixing passages of softer guitars with bursts of riffs that threaten to march in and burn down the city, the flurry of guitar activity throughout the track is an impressive display of how to indulge instrumentally without becoming a boring practice exercise. “Breaking The Chains” simplifies the attack, sounding not unlike “Vain Glory Opera” era Edguy, slightly off-putting vocals included. The solo brings someone else to mind, borrowing some of the tone and phrasing from Slash, showing off some impressive melodic skill before turning into a rush of cascading notes.
While the playing is busy impressing, the songwriting stumbles at points. “Unmasking Lies” treads too closely to the familiar formula of power metal, resulting in a chorus that soars without making any sort of impact at all. Followed up by “Must Be Dreaming”, a moody effort that again boasts little in the way of melody, the album loses whatever momentum the initial songs were able to generate. All the impressive playing in the world can't overcome sub-par songs, which is one of the lessons countless modern bands have yet to take to heart.
Scelerata is clearly trying to write solid songs, but they don't have the knack for spitting out melodies that demand attention. Too often, they sound all too obvious in reaching for the back of an arena, a quality that only serves to highlight how small they truly are. It's a common affliction, but one that is still as depressing as hearing it the first time. The guitar melody that rises up and opens “'Til The Day We Die” is exactly the kind of thing that can elevate a good song into a great one, but when what follows falls right into the cookie cutter power metal adheres to, the result is more depressing for the taunting.
“The Sniper” is one of those albums whose quality depends on how you listen to music. If you're one of those people who focuses solely on the guitar work, the album has more than enough riffs and solos to make you happy. The songs bristle with impressive fretwork, and deliver on most levels. But if you're someone who takes in the whole package, and places great emphasis on the vocals and melodies, “The Sniper” isn't an album that will stand up to the best material of its kind. There are a couple of solid tracks, but not enough to compete with the guitar theatrics, and not enough to rescue the album from falling short as it reaches for the brass ring.