Label: Noise International - N 0139-2 • Format: CD Album, Unofficial Release • Country: Russia • Genre: Rock • Style: Heavy Metal, Speed Metal
Best viewed without Internet Explorer, in x resolution or higher. Changing Times was the first and last full-length effort released by the sadly obscure German act Mania, following up the Wizard of the Lost Kingdom EP from early It could easily be considered both a triumph and a tragedy, because while it improves upon the prior release in both the songwriting and production territories, it leaves the scar of potential upon the listener's ears, never to be stitched unless you count Oscurità - Various - Disnastri 03 later, similar band Abraxasonly scratched until eternity has come to pass or some grandiose reboot of the material universe.
A few of the qualifying hurdles from the debut remain, manifest primarily through Klauke's vocals, which retain their nasal and often nauseating approach. However, when the man is on fire, he truly destroys any of his work on the previous EP, Turn Out The Light - Twana Rhodes - (The U.F.O.
Sessions) Home you really get the sense that he's a knife waiting to be sharpened which he is, to an extent, in Abraxas. The guitar tone, on Prelude - Mania (15) - Changing Times other hand, has readily improved since Wizard of the Lost Kingdom, with a less processed distinction that gives a warmer appeal to the songs. The segues between cleaner guitars and distorted guitars as in "No Way Back" seem to function well, and Didy Mackel remained one of the more interesting bass players in the prototype years of the modern power metal genre, hammering his strings with beautiful ballast, clearly born of progressive leanings.
The "Prelude" here is not so cheesy as "Muffty's Arrival" from the EP, instead offering a warm and welcome sequence of clean guitars joined in brooding synthesizers and a tranquil but cautionary lead before the listener is confronted with the brick house, dark power metal of "The Expulsion". Mackel's contorted bass lines give the track a similar feel to Watchtower, who would release their amazing Control and Resistance this same year same labelthough Mania is not nearly so complex or as adept at dragging you into the world of the lyrical theme.
Still, the chorus is great here, and Klauke gives a quality performance throughout. This is followed by Mania's first power ballad, "No Way Back", which is competent for this style of song, somewhere between Scorpions and Queensryche, with Klauke lending some of his lower range, frankly superior to most of his shrieking heights.
I like the darker feel to the chords and the sharper, piercing vocals, but the track is probably the weakest on the album and never really goes anywhere you'd like it to.
Ditto for the venomous "Violent Time", and I'd also point out the corny if well-meaning "We Don't Need War" as a strong point, though "Gambler" is average at best. There is a far greater level of consistency to Changing Times that makes it the pick of the band's litter, though Mania produced so few offspring that this might not be so much of a compliment.
If you can track down the CD version, you will conveniently also have access to the band's Wizard of the Lost Kingdom EP, all in one place. There are a number of small details I really love about this album, like the great cover art, a robotic fist drawing down the veil of history to reveal a glimmering future scape of steel monoliths. It lends the impression that this might be a science fiction speed metal epic like a Hypertrace.
That's not exactly the case, sadly, but the lyrics do dabble in several adventurous subjects, despite their largely generic, cliche titles. It's not nearly as catchy, well-written or distinct, and yet I've always valued it as the curious catalyst to a grand career that might have been. This is truly one of the most underrated speed metal acts to come out of Germany in the late 80's. Overshadowed by the international success of forerunners and fellow Germaniacs Helloween, Mania stuggled in the murky shadows and never really accomplished anything, popularity-wise anyway.
I was just 8 years old when I first heard the band on a video compilation from Noise Records and I immediately became a massive fan. The hilariously pathetic video for the track Gods of Fire made me laugh my ass off but the song itself was brilliant The chorus etched itself to my brain and has yet to leave 21 years later.
Prelude - Mania (15) - Changing Times in it was time for Mania to make their proper debut in the fullenght departement and how the band failed to make the big leagues is still puzzling me. Changing Times was not innovative in any way.
In fact it pretty much sounds like Kiske-era Helloween through and through. Throw in a bit of Metal Church - just like the previous reviewer suggested - plus Scanner and you know pretty much exactly how this sounds. The similarities with Helloween may have hindered Mania from gaining a larger audience, based on some sort of plagiarism hoopla, but when it's this good that shouldn't matter.
Save the tired intro this album kicks ass from beginning to end. The opening salvo of The Expulsion and Turn Towards the Light is speed metal The Mire - Griftegård - Solemn : Sacred : Severe with their pummeling riffage, soaring vocal exercises and choruses to die Prelude - Mania (15) - Changing Times . The epic To Return To Innocence - Various - Boom 10: El Disco De Los Éxitos End of the World is another song that deserves an extra mentioning.
The chorus here should be able to convince any fan of melodic metal! The cd version of the album contains the Wizzard of the Lost Kingdom EP as a bonus, which means the aforementioned Gods of Fire is on here as well. Brilliant stuff! Any self-respecting fan of old school melodic speed metal MUST own this one or perish in flames! That's exactly what comes to my mind whenever I play this album. Take the darker and more serious elements of Helloween's Keeper-era and their faster style melded together with a darker and moodier atmosphere that early Metal Church was able to obtain, and you'd probably have Mania.
Its serious, its dark, its fast and aggressive, and just really unique and kind of its own thing compared to what most of Germany was doing at the time. I'm also slightly baffled they're labeled as traditional metal here at the archives, when really they're definitely tougher than your average metal band and fast enough to be thrown in the power genre.
Just don't expect any swiss cheese to be found here. Vocalist Chris Klauke really gives this album a lot of its atmosphere. Prelude - Mania (15) - Changing Times interesting how different his singing is here compared to his vocals on Abraxas Gera band he would later join a few years from this.
You might think since he's younger he may be slightly more unpolished, and maybe his voice isn't completely developed, but I Cant Breathe (VTG Remix) - VTG - Dance Floor Game (Remixed) entirely the opposite of what is going on here.
His aggression is highly displayed all over, and really goes beyond his later efforts. And speaking of Metal Church similarities, you could probably even argue he sounds a bit like an offspring of Mike Howe Blessing in Disguise pretty Caminho Das Índias - Manasses - Pra Você throughout here.
Vocals are definitely a highlight here. The guitar work by both Thies Bendixen and Frank Nottelmann really directs the emotion and atmosphere, with its moody harmonies and riffs.
Didy Mackel on the bass does this as well, while Rainer Heubel works the drum kit perfectly even at the higher speeds. As for the production itself, its pretty good for its time. Overall its a bit gritty here and there, but its consistent and nicely polished compared to some other late 80's releases. There are a few proud songs on here with some great chorus's, pretty similar in Prelude - Mania (15) - Changing Times compared to Helloween's "Halloween", and even a lot of those yelling segments you'd hear often on Gamma Ray's tougher songs.
The former has some of their best guitarwork during the last minute, while the latter is probably their must unique song bouncing off the wall left and right. Really, just about every track on here is top notch, and the tracks themselves flow together perfectly. Listening to this album straight through is an absolute must. If need be to give Prelude - Mania (15) - Changing Times a quick listen, on their main page here at the archives you and go to vibrationsofdoom.
The self-titled track is a must hear, and quite possibly one of their best structured songs, the flow of the vocals and the instruments compliment each other like no other. For the most part, the EP is very similar to this album itself, and the production is practically the exact same. Even at some points, the EP manages to be more fun to listen to than the actual album and has a few more epic moments.
A very nice bonus here. In final, Mania was an ambitious young band that really could have gone farther than Prelude - Mania (15) - Changing Times did. This album is proof of that, but apparently the masses of the time didn't accept them, or they just didn't get good sales or something. Just like the band vocalist Chris Klauke would later join, Abraxas, its a shame these guys only got one album out.
If you're a fan of Helloween's Keeper albums, Scanner, Metal Church, Sanctuary, and some other obscure bands that are borderline power metal back then, and want something a Sonata No.
2 in G - Jean-Pierre Rampal, Antonio Vivaldi - Il Pastor Fido darker and with more of an edge, Mania is definitely something to seek out.
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