Silent Memorial – Cosmic Handball (Limb/Riot)

Silent Memorial’s second album Retrospective, released earlier this year, was a solid slab of 80s hair metal/AOR disguised as prog rock, and it certainly seems to have garnered plenty of good reviews (mine included). With the success of Retrospective the band has let their first album Cosmic Handball, originally released in 1998, have its turn in the spotlight; but the lights might just be a little too bright for this slice of Euro-prog metal.

From the very start of Cosmic Handball you get the feeling that the boys from Silent Memorial feared they might not ever get into a recording studio again. And, with this in mind, they have thrown every riff, note, idea and song scrap together to make a rather unwieldy set of songs that don’t sound so much like songs as, well, ideas. But I guess considering it was a decade between albums they weren’t far off the mark. 

That’s not to say there aren’t some great moments - hell there are riffs aplenty here courtesy of guitarist and mainman Christoph Baatchi - and with Thomas Vikstrom on vocal duties (Therion, Candlemass) for this album you can't fault the singing. But too much happens too quickly for you to get a grasp of the songs.

There are some killer songs here too, it's just that just as you’re getting into them they suddenly change tack completely or the keyboard runs away with the bass, or the bloody song sort of halts, scratches around in the dirt for a minute, has a cigarette and then cranks up again!

Cosmic Tornado is one track that does manage to stay mostly on the ball and it shows the potential of what was to come, as does Carpet Diver with its chunky bluesy feel, reminding me a little of those old buggers Uriah Heep. There are touches of Whitesnake, Giuffra and more than a taste of early Angel throughout the album; and then there’s Queen all over the silly but strangely fun song Lovely Galaxy, where Vikstrom admits to wanting to basically shag the galaxy! 

This is a pretty good effort but it’s so frustrating! It's like a prog metal equivalent of a noise album – with so much thrown in, so much happening that you can never quite settle into it.  I’d start with Retrospective and if you dig the great songs there and the guitar work of Baatchi then maybe you’ll enjoy their debut.  Just don’t go in expecting the same thing. The band has matured a lot since then, both in style and song structure.

Silent Memorial's Cosmic Handball is out now on Limb/Riot.