Imagika's And So It Burns album from 2000 got them a serious following, mostly in Europe and it was also the first album of the band that saw a US release. Not only was And So It Burns an excellent work of Bay Area Thrash Metal album, but it also surprised many fans in a time when even the most classic groups of the 80's were putting out core-influenced stuff or they were simply on hiatus.
Five years later, Imagika returns with a new release and some substantial changes, both musically and lineup-wise. Original vocalist and founder of the band Dave Michaels is gone. New vocalist is Norman Skinner of Tramontane and Machine Called Man. Skinner has written all lyrics and vocal melodies on the new album and therefore has given Imagika a somewhat new direction. Furthermore, the band has recruited a second guitar player, Pat Toms, and he often dives into jamming solo passages with original guitarist Steve Rice. The duo lay down some truly killer licks and solos. Finally the band also has a female bass player who actually joined the band shortly after the release of their previous disc, but with the exception of a few tracks, I feel Elena Repetto Luciano's involvement seems more subdued on this album, and she serves as a medium to thicken the guitar sounds, rather than going for more pronounced bass lines similar to those on And So It Burns.
Devils On Both Sides is a mercilessly heavy piece of metal, littered with the band's never-ending passion for Bay Area Thrash, where Rice and Toms cut it loose and fill songs like "Hexed", "Last Battalion", and "Voice of Prejudice" with rampaging thrash riffs. They also utilise some speedy elements akin to Dark Angel's earlier work coloured with powerful drumming by Henry Moreno. The slightly longer songs are a bit more appealing, as the band has gone for a more epic style of songwriting. The intro of "Evil's Rising" is as evil as the song suggests with dark power metal vocals that bring to mind Matt Barlow's first album with Iced Earth. The band actually evokes Iced Earth's Night of the Stormrider meets Burnt Offerings period because of the way they like to throw in moody acoustic passages on "In Your Shadow", the title track, and "Vigilante". On these songs, Imagika creates a sense of dichotemy where they move between dark acoustic sections and Skinner's deep vocals and back to heavier rhythm guitar oriented American power metal fury where the vocalist also uses some of his rawer tone. Also, the band's Priest influence is still eminent. Besides the brief machine-gun riffery in the intro of "Spellbound", the band shows their respect to Judas Priest's most glorious days and even Skinner lets out a raging scream that would make Halford proud.
The album was originally intended to be produced by Neil Kernon. Kernon actually recorded the guitars and drums, but then with the departure of Dave Michaels, the band had to look for a new singer and by the time they found Norman Skinner, Neil Kernon was no longer available. Therefore the bass and vocals were recorded and mixed by someone else. I feel the production could have been better as the guitars sound a bit flat and the drums aren't as punchy as they are on earlier releases. It's no big deal though. This is an album for classic 80's metal fans and will please them greatly.
- In Your Shadow
- Evil's Rising
- Devils On Both Sides
- Last Battalion
- Back to the Beginning
- Voice of Prejudice
- Dead Eye Stare