The latest offering from Brazil's power metal upstarts Hibria is absolutely blistering. Following on the heels and wheels of their full-length debut Defying The Rules, The Skull Collectors takes to the skies and launches a non-stop air assault of virtuoso power metal.
Let us emphasize the virtuoso aspect of this album, as it is the band's claim to metal fame. The album is relentless from the first crashing chord of Tiger Punch to the last fill of Screaming Ghost-provided as a demo version. It is almost exhausting to listen to, as one can imagine it would be for the band to perform.
Guitar shred-heads will eat this album up. The licks, solos, and melodies fly everywhere like heat-seeking missiles devoted to your ears, courtesy of Abel Carmago and Diego Kasper. Both of them show shades of Paul Gilbert(Racer X) and Kiko Laureieo (Angra) in their maniacal-yet-melodic solos. The bass playing on this album is nothing short of phenomenal, as Marco Panichi shows ably that he can slap, tap and shred right along with the guitar-slingers.
Vocalist Iuri Sanson should be recognized as one of the genre's standout vocalists. His range and power are exceptional. He sings in the typical rough, slightly nasal tenor style that reminds often of Jeff Martin of Racer X. With the pervasive multi-tracked harmony that doubles his melodies throughout most of the album, his mortal voice becomes a soaring juggernaut of metal melody.
The most dizzying display of technique on this album, however, is new drummer Eduardo Baldo, who used to be the band's roadie. His machinegun kick drums are swift and sure, providing the hallowed Painkiller drive, and his fills and stops fall right on the razor's edge every time.
All of this being said: the album can be difficult to listen to at times, because it is so virtuosic. It is so musically rich that it demands a discerning ear- much of its depth can be lost through casual listening. Slightly clearer production of the guitars would have alleviated much of this, as the tone is a bit thin. However, the attitude, drive, heaviness, and professionalism of the album will grab the listener and not let go until the last punishing song has relented, and their mission is complete.
The Album, like its predecessor, has an underlying lyrical concept, this time eschewing the motorcycle gangs and telling a tumultuous tale of an air force pilot whose pride overtakes him and sets him on a quest for revenge. It is a fantastic melding of two oft-used story ideas, but trying to follow this pilot's plight was difficult due to Iuri Sanson's less-than-firm grasp of the English language. We cannot and should not fault him for this, though, as the lyrics are delivered with such passion that any linguistic shortcomings seem negligible at worst.
The powerful, computer-generated cover art lends emphasis the album's story nicely. It also imparts a very video game-like feeling to the whole affair, which dispenses with the heavy-handedness that plagues so many concept albums. The frustrations of the pilot in question can be seen on his face, as he is grizzled and war-weary.
The songs themselves are tightly woven, but often meander. The first few songs do not suffer from this as much. Tiger Punch, Reborn From The Ashes, and The Anger Inside are the most cohesive songs on the album, and brim with classic metal energy and soaring power metal melodies. On the title track I find a bit of a loss of focus, as if they want to get to the refrain or a verse, but decided not to in mid-flight.
Some of the interludes and solo sections in Burning All The Flags and Wings Of Wax seem superfluous at first, but given the shred-till-you-drop attitude of the album, they fit-but only just. This is a band that is not afraid to take risks with their songwriting. Most of the time they soar, but other times they stall. They are always able to recover.
For those who enjoy their power metal with a healthy dose of 80s energy, over-the-top musical histrionics and complex arrangements: Put The Skull Collectors in your CD player, turn it up, and hang on. This album is a tiger-punch of pure adrenaline that both exhausts and exhilarates.