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Cellador - Off the Grid Award winner

Off the Grid
by Anna Chase at 06 June 2017, 2:48 PM

CELLADOR’s origin story starts like this: five guys from the American Midwest; Omaha and Nebraska, to be more exact, wanted to barge onto the 21st century American Metal scene, but simultaneously introduce something new, rather than attempt to make a name within the clichéd and tired Metalcore scene. Founder Chris Petersen is one of the only original members who’s still with the band, since they’ve experienced several lineup changes since their formation in 2003. Surprisingly, the band has managed to garner fame and respect in the largely overlooked genre of American Power Metal. For example, they’ve played with big names like THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, TRIVIUM, BEHEMOTH, and BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE. The group’s first demo, “The Burning Blue”, was released in 2004, and since then they’ve released a demo, an EP, and a full-length album before finalizing the details on their latest effort, “Off the Grid” in 2017. Although I was a bit skeptical of the band’s self-proclaimed title as “The Kings of American Power Metal”, I was impressed by their extensive repertoire, international fan base, and frankly, a friend of Nergal’s is a friend of mine.

The opening song, “Sole Survivors”, is a Thrashy, screaming blend of manic guitars and Petersen’s impressive vocal range. To me, this track seems to fit better into the genre of Speed Metal rather than Power, however, I’m not one to nitpick over subgenres. It’s a strong, impressively crafted track which highlights the talent of the guitarists and blasts open the album with a kick of hyper-speed riffs. “Break Heresy” draws inspiration from the soaring riffs of 80’s Speed Metal giants such as OVERKILL and METAL CHURCH, while still introducing the band’s own spin on the genre. McCallister’s drums are relentless, and provide the perfect backdrop for a rhythm-heavy, screaming, slightly nostalgic anthem. The shredding solo is impressive, and overall this song is just a great head banger that exists for the simple purpose of pumping up a crowd.

“Shadowfold” is a lot heavier than the previous tracks, and almost seems like a blend of SLAYER’s discordant, banging melodies and JUDAS PRIEST’s sweeping riffs and clean vocals. I said it once, and I’ll say it again; McCallister is a demon on the drums, and this bass-heavy anthem has got to take some stamina to pound out. Everything about this song screams power and energy: from the squealing of the guitars to Petersen’s refreshingly clean vocals, it’s masterfully done. “Wake Up the Tyrant” is another heart-pounding Speed Metal race, this time centered around Meyers’ insane thrashing on his guitar. Despite the tireless guitar work, the vocals manage to glide over the other instruments in an impressively catchy chorus. The 80’s nostalgia is heavy here. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the raw energy of this song, but for a band that claims to reinvent Power Metal, I was getting a bit too much déja vú for comfort. The album’s title track, unsurprisingly named

“Off the Grid”, conveyed a bit more of the Power Metal vibe, rather than its Speed Metal predecessors. This was a catchy, well-done song which could fit right in with any of its more well-known counterparts within the genre. I was even almost expecting this song to show up on a DRAGONFORCE album.  This track combines a catchy chorus with the perfect blend of Thrash and Power, and I can’t state enough how impressive the unrelenting guitar and drums are. “Swallow Your Pride” is probably one of the best songs on this album. It has just enough of a classic Speed Metal feel to balance out Petersen’s powerful vocals, and throughout this entire album, McCallister continues to impress me more and more with his drum skills. This song screams pure, unabashed force, and exhibits CELLADOR’s most impressive skill: their determination. Their impressive energy doesn’t falter once in this album.

“Shimmering Status” makes use of the sheer talent of all the band members, including Valadez on keyboard. Though there are only a few instances where he can be heard above the other instruments, the keyboard adds depth and a unique element to a track that’s pure Speed Metal. Now, while Petersen’s vocal range is striking, his screeching Glam Metal-esque vocals here seemed a bit disjointed in parts. He’s an amazing singer, but needs to be aware of how his voice sounds along with the other instruments. “Good Enough” is a kick-ass song which introduces a choppy, groove-inspired rhythm to the album. While it clearly isn’t raw Speed Metal like some of the other tracks on this album, the guitars still have enough of a Thrash influence to make this song clearly Metal. The most standout aspect here was the unique, insanely catchy rhythm and Petersen’s “ay-ay-ay-ay” which recurred throughout.

Now, “This Means War” is a pretty obvious Thrash anthem which is full of barely-restrained emotion and anger. The drums track is full of rapid-fire blast beats, and the guitars tear through each other in a battle for domination. However, the vocals tie everything together with the running theme of Power Metal, and they soar above a heavy instrumental background and a sizzling solo to create an inspiring and catchy chorus. The last song, “Running Riot,” is clearly meant to showcase the drums and vocals. Petersen and McCallister are almost in competition with one another to see who can stand out the most over the explosive guitar riffs. The solo here may have been one of the best on the album. Honestly, it was an extended, wailing, finger-shredding melody which outmatched even the catchy chorus.

Overall, CELLADOR is pretty much a five-man powerhouse of pure talent and energy. While they draw some elements from other bands. They also introduce completely new sounds and rhythms, and most of all, they manage to create an electrifying, technically flawless album that doesn’t get repetitive and that I’ll be listening to over and over again.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Sole Survivors
2. Break Heresy
3. Shadowfold
4. Wake Up the Tyrant
5. Off the Grid
6. Swallow Your Pride
7. Shimmering Status
8. Good Enough
9. This Means War
10. Running Riot
Chris Petersen- Vocals, guitar
Eric Meyers- Guitar
Diego Valadez- Keyboard
James Pickett- Bass
Nick McCallister- Drums
Record Label: Scarlet Records


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