Labÿrinth - Return To Heaven Denied

Year of Release: 1998
Label: Metal Blade
Catalog Number: 3984 14176 2
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:47:00

If you've heard or own Labÿrinth's previous work called No Limits you know that the disc is well received in the prog metal world, mostly because of the speedy, progressive chops mixed in with the techno key sound as we prog people like to call it. In addition, Lab?rinth sported one of the best singers in metal today, Joe Terry (now known as Fabio Leone). The superb production also helped to propel this disc to one of the most dynamic-but-different discs to have come out in awhile. With Fabio Leone having left the band and gone onto other projects such as Athena and Rhapsody, we wondered if Lab?rinth would ever release another disc. Metal Blade must have seen the potential in this band and grabbed them and released this monster of a metal disc that is quickly spreading throughout the metal world in any genre.


The band has gone on into a more speedy, neo-classical style similar to Stratovarius yet managing to hold onto their own sound and style. Therefore, now we get Stratovarius / Helloween speed mixed in with some of the older Lab?rinth sound and chops which makes for a very interesting disc. The band has always prided itself on speed, and this time out they've cranked it up into high gear. The techno sounding keys are still prevalent, although not as much as on the earlier release. Here, the twin guitar approach is in full bloom, taking center stage for an all out speedy assault that can be hard to keep up with at times. If it weren't for the Labÿrinth sound mixed in with the speed, this might have been brushed aside as a typical Helloween clone. The unique guitar sound mixed in with the magical melodies make this one a winner.

The songs "Night Of Dreams" and "State Of Grace" give a prime example of older Labÿrinth, while "Lady Lost In Time" and "Moonlight" signify the current state of affairs within the band's approach. Of course, the signature double bass runs and rolls that were common place on the first disc are still here in all their glory. I was amazed at the amount of double bass interjections on No Limits, popping up everywhere on songs that you'd never expect them to be, but here on Return, there is no popping up, it's all just an all out speed war in the drum dept. The soft, plush, acoustic / electric guitar intros that make you think BALLAD and then kick into a speedy assault are still here as well. Just when you think you're in for a softy, the song kicks into high speed and never stops. There are some slower songs here, including the title track, and 1 or 2 others, but not in the slow as we know it, just slower in terms of what Labryinth deems slower. Fans of speed metal, melodic metal, Stratovarius and Helloween would do well with this band, and it seems that prog metal fans as well are taking a huge liking to this band for their stop-start-stop-go-elsewhere approach to the music.


Olaf Thorsen & Anders Raid / Guitars - I believe these two gentlemen are from the previous version of Labÿrinth, and still have one of the best twin guitar attacks in metal. They also have cornered the market on an interesting sound that they've created, in which the guitars are plucked out of time with the music and echoed severely, creating a dynamic sound that is signature of the sound. I wish I could describe this technique in guitar terms, but one just has to listen to either Labÿrinth disc to know what I mean, it's prevalent on both discs. [I believe the terms he is looking for are arpreggio and counterpoint -ed.] Their twin assault is one of the most underrated in the business and their lead are as blazing as their rhythms.

Chris Breeze / Bass- Chris is also from the previous version of Labÿrinth, and one hell of a speedster as well to be keeping up with the twins from hell on guitars.

Andrew McPauls / Keyboards - I don't remember off hand if Andrew was in the previous version of the band, but I will say that the key sound is certainly familiar, although not as thick as on the first disc. They still have that "techno" sound, incorporating "synths with bells" lots of the time giving the music a unique sound that is very pleasing to the ears. Check out "Night Of Dreams" for that sound. Andrew does not have many, if any, solo parts, but is well versed in keeping up with the guitars if needed.

Mat Stancioiu / Drums - Mat replaced the previous Labÿrinth drummer, and does a fantastic job of maintaining that double bass sound of Lab?rinth, although Mat seems to be more of a Jorg Michael style drummer, well versed in neo-classical style, and able to reach 60mph in the blink of an eye. A superb replacement.


If someone told me that Fabio Leone was going to be replaced in any band, I'd have to say that the next singer could not measure up no matter who it was. Enter Rob Tyrant. Not to underscore Rob, but I am convinced that Fabio Leone was given vocal cords from Heaven, so I am totally biased, but I will admit that Rob Tyrant can hold his own against anyone as well. A more than suitable replacement for Leone, Rob sounds like a hybrid cross between Ray Alder and Fabio Leone, which is putting him in some serious company. Based on those two names alone, this will give an idea of what he can do. This guy can make any band sound great, and I look forward to hearing him in the future. From a soft, lullabyed intro, to an all out blitz to keep the pace with the furious music, Rob can pull it off easily. Listen to "Falling Rain" for his softer side, and "Thunder" for his more aggressive side. An excellent singer and well suited for this music. If anyone had told me that someone could replace Fabio and do the job that Rob is doing, I'd never have believed them.


As earlier Labÿrinth shows, the band is bent on achieving superb sound, and on Return, their quest for superior sound has been fulfilled. Amazingly produced by the band, it has one of the best recordings I've heard in metal in quite some time. Bands would kill to find the ingredient used in obtaining a sound like this, and I tip my hat to a band that strives for the sound that Labÿrinth has obtained. Whenpeople ask if production is important, it takes only a listen to this disc to answer that. I wish I could come up with a complaint about the sound, but I can't, and I won't even make something up to satisfy that need in me to pick apart some aspect of the sound. Every instrument is exactly where it should be in the mix, including the vox, and it's amazing at what bands can do to achieve great sound. The guitars are clean, crisp and precise. The clarity is astounding here, and really helps to accent their twin sound. The bass is deep, punchy, and accurate with a snare drum sound that (and I always say this) every band should try to achieve. I'm personally tired of tinny snare drum sounds, intentional or not, and it really detracts from the music. With Lab?rinth, someone knows not only where to put a drum sound, but how to get the best out of that sound. The kick drums are full and boomy, and the snare sounds like a snare drum, not a tin can. The keys are just a bit back in the mix, but placed so accurately as if the person recording knew exactly where the best sound would be. The vocals are perfectly placed as well, with lots of reverb, and amazingly it's easy to hear just about every word that Tyrant is singing. When was the last time you heard what the singer was saying in a speed metal band ? This sound is a lesson in sound recording for sure.


Fans of speed metal, neo-classical, Stratovarius, Helloween or anyone looking for something different mixed in with their speed will do VERY well here. The disc has been getting high ratings and praises from all walks of metal life, and deservedly so. Lab?rinth has taken an established genre, and injected their own sound into it, making it sound refreshing. While it's very difficult to "create" a new style of metal, as it's all been pretty much all done, it doesn't hurt to build upon something that's already there and add your own techniques to it. Rhapsody and Labÿrinth come to mind instantly. With bands like this leading the way, there seems to be hope for metal to make its comeback, and I tip my hat again to Metal Blade for realizing the need and potential for grabbing up talented bands like this. Maybe it's this attitude that will help propel metal back to where it belongs. In the meantime, Return to Heaven Denied is a metal fan's dream.

Moonlight (5:43) / New Horizons (6:22) / The Night Of Dreams (4:47) / Lady Lost In Time (5:32) / State Of Grace (3:08) / Heaven Denied (4:57) / Thunder (4:21) / Feel (4:22) / Time After Time (5:07) / Falling Rain (6:26) / Die For Freedom (7:02)

Rob Tyrant - vocals
Olaf Thorsen - guitars
Anders Rain - guitars
Chris Breeze - bass
Andrew McPauls - keyboards and piano
Mat Stantioiu - drums

Piece Of Time (1995)
No Limits (1996)
Return To Heaven Denied (1998)
Timeless Crime (1999)
Labyrinth (2003)
Freeman (2005)
Six Days To Nowhere (2007)
Return To Heaven Denied Pt. II - "A Midnight Autumn's Dream" (2010)
As Time Goes By... (2011)
Architecture Of A God (2017)

Genre: Progressive/Power Metal

Origin IT

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website:
Hits: 1130
Language: english


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