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Spellbound Dazzle – Unreal Fairy Tales                                 8/10

By Daz Higham

Spellbound Dazzle - Unreal Fairy TalesBeyond its own borders Croatia isn’t generally known for its musical heritage. Only the composer Haydn even comes close to having a claim, having been born in a Croat enclave, but even that was in Austria. (You can use that one the next time you need something to impress the girls. Ok, perhaps not). Ask most Croats to name famous countrymen and you’ll get Marco Polo, tennis players, basketball stars and soccer players, but no musicians.

However, with a little luck and some help from Italy that may be about to change.   

Brothers Kresko & Branko Stekovic are the brains behind Spellbound Dazzle, a new addition to the prog metal stable. Having fled their homeland during the war in 1993, the Stekovics settled in Northern Italy, and founded the band ten years later, along with two local Italians, drummer Stefano Artus & bassist Dante Bridda.

Fast forward to 2010 and after paying their dues on the Italian metal scene finally have product in their debut album Unreal Fairy Tales. And it’s quite a statement. Fusing together a myriad of musical styles, ‘Fairy Tales has a metal base with a liberal sprinkling of prog, folk and polka (yes, polka) thrown in, creating a genuinely interesting journey that always holds and sometimes demands the listeners’ attention.

Given the multitude of styles on offer it’s difficult to immediately describe their sound, but there are consistent themes running through most of the tracks that give hints of a uniqueness to be exploited in the future. Central to the album is a Queen-like vocal style using occasional pentatonic / Arabic scales (think Serj Tankian), an obvious nod to their Croatian background. However, unlike System Of A Down, there is little of the frantic riffing underneath, the band preferring more ‘feel’ in their guitar motifs, and the songs benefit as a result.

The album can be split into two distinct parts; the proggy-edged, multi-layered ‘kitchen sink’ songs alongside more straight-ahead pieces, although even those have twists. “Goodbye My Love”, “The Foolin’ Of Each Other”, “SBD” and the thoroughly mad “So Close” fall into the former category, each carrying enough differing melodies, sounds and mood changes to sink a battleship. Ballad “In My Room” and the heavy grooves of “Spaceman”, “Monster” and “W.I.T.M.S” fit the latter, and strangely this is where Spellbound really do dazzle (sorry).

When they allow the song to ‘breathe’ a little more, Spellbound Dazzle really come into their own, as there is no doubt these guys can write good melodies in their sleep. “In My Room” is the second best thing on the album, and yet is the most simple (by far) of any of the tracks. Its antithesis is “So Close”, which whilst brilliantly executed seems to be trying too hard to be too many things, and there’s a danger of losing the song’s identity as a result.

That’s not to say that they shouldn’t continue with the proggier elements, which really add texture to the experience – the best examples being the “Intro” & “Outro” which provide a nicely rounded package – and the musicianship is very good indeed.

If you like well written melodic metal with some nicely progressive surprises, Spellbound Dazzle are for you. A great start to an extremely promising career.

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