OverMaster is an Italian act designed to perform a guitar driven brand of forceful power metal inspired by all the greats like Judas Priest's Painkiller, early Vicious Rumors or German acts like Grave Digger. To this they add a mildly symphonic element in keyboard player Alexandros, but much of his contribution to Madness of War comes in the form of a subtler background touch, and in fact this is welcome, as it gives the guitars the breadth they need to rock your face off. Pino Sicari, the native six-stringer here, ensures that they do just that, with a tireless array of mute picking storms and melodic escalation.
But the true surprise here is the vocal presence of Gus Gabarrò (once of White Skull), who has this unnerving decay to his voice which reminds me a lot of Japanese power metal singers (Anthem, Loudness, etc) and their broken English. He is able to compensate for a lack of huge range with a heavy load of pent up emotion, and yet he's still got the melodies in him to rise the occasion whenever the album spins towards a big chorus (as in "Revolution World"). With a solid rhythm section in check that includes bassist Dimitri Oldani of Edge of Forever and drummer Carlos Cantatore (who recently got a live gig with Canada's Annihilator), OverMaster earns positive marks for crafting a solid, if not ambitious debut.
Again, it's hard driving power metal, in particular the verses of tracks like "Jungle of Madness", "Children of the Sand" and "Spartan Warriors" which all feel modern and bonecrushing, like the guitars used on the Halford solo albums: simple and effective, with a great tone and plenty of squeal and flair when necessary. The chorus parts do often feel a little too predictable, safely nestled among the edgier rhythm guitars, and the band does lack the ability to really drive a melody home into your head, but on the whole, I found the material engaging enough to throw some horns and shake my neck. Favorites would be the thundering "Marble King" with its thick cascade of taut, punching classical infused guitar, and the total Priest fisting of "Battle Prayer". The ballad "Nameless Hero" is also quite good, as it very carefully tempers its acoustic guitars and slight, proggy snipes of synthesizer with power chords and emotionally resonant vocals.
Alongside countrymen Burning Black, OverMaster seem to represent an honest new shift in Italian power metal which abandons the symphonic excess of Rhapsody, Dark Moor and the tragic Skylark (whom Cantatore also once drummed for). Guitars to the fore, songs of quality, and great vocalists who perform slightly left of center than Fabio Lione or Rob Tyrant yet develop an even more endearing quality. Given that I'm a pretty large fan of Anthem, Vicious Rumors, Halford, Judas Priest, U.D.O. and Accept, I found Madness of War difficult to resist, especially when it succeeds at balancing the hard edge of these bands with the grace of the Euro-power anthem.
Verdict: Win [7.75/10]