Back in the Playstation 2 days, there was a little game called Katamari Damacy (Japanese for “Clump Spirit”). In it, you, the Prince, son of the King Of All Cosmos, were tasked with rebuilding the stars drunkenly destroyed by your father. To complete this task, you were given a small ball called a katamari that could essentially absorb anything smaller than it’s size. Throughout the game, the Prince goes from picking up small knick-nacks off the floor to absorbing entire cities in his quest to rebuild the stars.
From the opening foray of “Razor City,” kicking off the band’s third full length, Riptime, it is immediately apparent that Mega Colossus have found the combustable chemistry to warrant yet another name change, perhaps to “Giga Colossus.” The thrash-injected energy of the rhythm guitars, the ear-piercing pinch harmonics in the leads, the scatterbrained tom fills from battery powerhouse Doza Mendoza and Buchanan’s best vocals to date hitting ball-busting wails with unbridled confidence are nothing less than a winning formula right out of the gate. Mega Colossus are driving full on into latter-era Riot territory, injecting some high octane energy behind their catchy brand of power-laden adventure metal. Perhaps the addition of Chris Millard (Children Of The Reptile, Salvación) may have something to do with it. Fischer and Millard sound like they’re pushing one another to the next level–the trading shreddery of the solos that slice their way out of the speed every minute or so add an undeniable freshness to more tried-and-true songwriting formulae. No one overstays their welcome, however, and the musicians keep the action moving with the pace of the song thanks to the anchor of bassist Anthony Micale (Knightmare, Cerebus). He never plays too far out of the pocket–just enough to serve as a playful wink and add a bit of confident, seductive swagger to the low end.
Despite all the Riot V influence at the beginning of the album, calling Mega Colossus full-on U.S. power metal would still be a bit of a misnomer. There’s a very Blind Guardian element to their sound, perhaps in the way the storytelling of the lyrics weave themselves into the songs. Whereas Blind Guardian have a knack for dissecting Lord Of The Rings and Moorcock fiction, Mega Colossus prove particularly adapt at translating their primary source material of sci-fi films, video games, and tabletop RPG’s. Take for, example, album highlight “Run To The Fight.” If you can successfully bribe your Saturday night Pathfinder DM with a case of Coors Light to let your party do WWE-style wrestling intros, this is the song to jump on. The song builds tension right from the beginning with a bit of Savatage-y operatic guitar. Energy builds as the riffs take form across the breaks of the drums. The ganged up falsetto pre-chorus hints at the hook to come as Buchanan belts out intentions for the night’s imaginary quest:
I drink for the power, I drink for my health
I drink till I flow, like whiskey itself
Don’t care for tomorrow, don’t care what was
Just want to fight monsters, with the perfect buzz
The backing chorus beneath the bridge adds the perfect dynamic as the music strives to take things to the stratosphere, building emotional, cloud-scraping solos and an intricately layered final chorus over a doubled-down tempo. It’s fast, powerful, and uplifting–a guaranteed nat 20 every time.
That brilliant layering of the production is what brings the magic of songs like “Tinker Tanner” to life. Buchanan’s charisma wraps neatly around the spine of the more comfortable mid tempo, colored brilliantly with organically energetic guitar work. Fischer and Millard bubble up without boiling over, keeping that tension that holds steady across the album flowing. The sparing usage of synth marries well with the rock/operatic vocals that make a formidable nod to that of Queen. Album closer “Iron Rain” sounds like a proper final stand: Triumphant and confident, it even takes on a bit of cheeky swashbucklery when “we howl like wolves in the night” is accentuated not only with a howling wolf, but a howling pinch harmonic on the guitar as it throws it’s headstock back to meet the moon. Flawless execution!
Mega Colossus never lose the grip on their original katamari: That fun-spirited “adventure metal” moniker self-proclaimed by the band holds true. Riptime feels like a fluid journey through the best parts of speedy US and European power metal, epic mid-paced heavy metal, and cloud-scraping shred, all delivered in a single, whip-lashing fun package. Never sacrificing their free-spirited core for any sense of pretentiousness, Mega Colossus hit a sweet spot between flashy musicianship and crafting catchy tunes. Riptime is an album of songs the band had a hell of a blast writing and recording, and the energy translates in the final product. The trajectory of the spirit clump that houses the soul of of the band only continues to grow–and Riptime is the band’s most impressive star to date.