Like fellow countrymen Trick or Treat, Italian power metal outfit SkeleToon aren’t right for you if your metal must be all about death and brutality. And like the former, the latter also started out as a Helloween tribute band before moving on to original compositions, at which there is definitely influences to be found on this, their third full length album, inspired by seminal ‘80s classic The Goonies and titled They Never Say Die. The album is littered with guest vocalists and guest guitar spots. Almost every song sees a vocalist from one fellow Italian power metal band or other pitch in as a character from the movie that lent the inspiration. While this isn’t always necessary, as Tomi Fooler carries himself brilliantly in his “own” tracks - most notably opener Hell-O - it does add another dimension to the music in some of the better tracks.
Alessandro Conti as Chunk comes to mind as the strongest in the beautifully titled The Truffle Shuffle Army: Bizardly Bizarre. The song is Helloween-y in all the right ways, from the jovial melodics and guitar harmonies from Davide Piletto and Andrea Cappellari to Conti’s vocals being all Kiske influenced, high pitched and controlled and with a great chorus to boot. Guido Benedetti (Trick Or Treat) and Simone Mularoni (DGM) both lend their guitars to a couple of songs, notably the solos of one of the more accessible tracks on here; Last Chance. It is more AOR inspired and timid, but still sports great melodic leads and a great guest spot from Michele Luppi (Secret Sphere). Still, while most of the stuff here is old school power metal of the highest order and great, soaring choruses, there are some less interesting material as well; ballad To Leave a Land is also pretty forgettable despite a good performance from Fooler and the cover of Avantasia classic Farewell not only seems way out of place, but is also a more or less exact replica of the original but without Ernie’s falsetto at the end - skip!
Small grievances aside, it’s hard to pick favorites when most of the album is so inspired and great examples of what a power metal track should be. From the flashy guitar leads mingling with sparse keyboards to add depth, to the campy lyrics and bright feel, and then the huge blast of vivacity when the chorus strikes. Some of the guitarrific stuff hearken back to the early Hammerfall days, while the melodic glory on display invoke a Power Quest-y feel, while the outright flying power metal pieces are Helloween inspired goodness through and through, coming to a more prog inspired close in closing track When Legends Turn Real. In all, the album is a delightfully open and campy experience, and one that shouldn’t be missed out on by any power metal fan, especially if you’re not too picky about keeping the campiness to a minimum. And then to end the album with a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s classic The Goonies R Good Enough - with Giacomo Voli (Rhapsody of Fire) proving his colors once again - is just awesome; it’s all bizardly bizarre, but it’s impossible not to love it.
Standout tracks: The Truffle Shuffle Army: Bizardly Bizarre, They Never Say Die, When Legends Turn Real