Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review: Diphtheria - To Wait For Fire (2008)

Diphtheria [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
To Wait For Fire

Diphtheria, besides being a nasty throat condition, is the name of a Cyprus-based traditional metal band formed back in 1995 who's style of metal would have catapulted them into the spotlight had they been on the scene a decade earlier. Instead, their NWOBHM-influenced dual-guitar riffs and harmonized leads lay relatively dormant until their debut full-length album To Wait For Fire was released in 2008 by Pitch Black Records - which, not coincidentally, was founded by Diphtheria guitarist Phivos Papadopoulos. The band's debut album is, through and through, '80s traditional metal at its best. Hell, even the production lends a Bark At The Moon-era Randy Rhoads ambiance to the guitar tone. For those of you who are, like me, still preoccupied with on.

As previously mentioned, Diphtheria's core sound is pillared by the memorable, driving riffs of Papadopoulos and Socrates Leptos (Arryan Path, Prodigal Earth). While most often adopting a simple, catchy style, the two axemen occasionally take on a Doomier edge as on "I Believe" (which reminds me a lot of Queensr├┐che) and the heavily Black Sabbath-influenced "Save Me". Of course, To Wait For Fire couldn't be considered a traditional metal album without an Iron Maiden influence, and it can indeed be heard most distinctly in the anxious harmonized riffs that propel "Sleeping With the Worms" as well as in the subdued guitar intro of "As Darkness Casts its Veil".

Equal in importance to the fine six-string work from Papadopoulos and Leptos is the very strong vocal performance of frontman Nicholas Leptos (Arryan Path, Prodigal Earth). His style is quite remarkable due to his depth of emotion and his knack for the dramatic. Mostly he belts out the lyrics in a typical mid-range metal fashion, but on tracks like "Behind the Mirror's Eye" and "Save Me" his delivery is so theatrical that I swore I was listening to a metallized production of Phantom of the Opera. That's not a bad thing at all, mind you, as he certainly adds a depth of character to the songs. There are times, however, that Leptos strays a little too high with his falsettos and comes off sounding thin. In the end, his performance on To Wait For Fire certainly qualifies him to be considered among the better vocalists of the genre.

The last two tracks on the album, "Living to Die" and "God Wanted (Apply Here)", are remastered tracks from Diphtheria's first demo entitled Living to Die. They stand out not only because Leptos' vocals are a tad less polished than on the preceding tracks, but also because the songs themselves provide an interesting look into the band's early style. "Living to Die" has a nice acoustic intro coupled with a Jeff Beck-like bluesy solo, but the subsequent Judas Priest-inspired riffs are overshadowed by some questionable female vocals. Not a great choice. The final track, however, is one of the most interesting of the album. Opening with a newscaster voice over (courtesy of Britain's Liana Weafer), the following acoustic guitar and piano interplay is quite groovy - and the foot really gets tapping thanks to Alexi David's driving bass.

As a fan of the traditional metal scene of the 1980s, I'm very impressed by Diphtheria's debut. Most of the members have gone on to other metal acts so a follow-up to To Wait For Fire may not be in the cards, but for those metal fans who can't get enough of that old-school Heavy Metal this is an album that you shouldn't be without.

Track Listing
1 Ending Ceremony 5:39
2 I Believe 4:49
3 Behind the Mirror's Eye 5:15
4 To Wait for Fire 3:02
5 As Darkness Casts its Veil 5:10
6 Sleeping With the Worms 3:38
7 Save Me 5:22
8 Start Again 5:24
9 Living to Die 6:34
10 God Wanted (Apply Here) 5:03
Total Runtime 49:50

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