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“Free Admission For The Damned” by Nightmare Stage

Artist: The Nightmare Stage
Title: “Free Admission For The Damned”
Label: Independent Artist
Release Date: 4/13/2010
Genre: Melodic Power Metal
Rating: 4.5/5

Without meaning any offense I have to say that I chuckle a little bit when someone I don’t really know hands me a CD and says “if you like Iron Maiden then you will enjoy this”. With that in mind I also have to admit that such a belief in a band to compare them to the likes of the British juggernauts intrigues me a little bit more than some of the rest that I might find myself receiving. That alone made looking into and listening to The Nightmare Stage’s “Free Admission For The Damned” something that I was very much looking forward to. The album starts off with a strange little intro piece that aims on setting up the mood for the listener and while different it did not manage to snare me (but of course I approach these intros with more scrutiny than your average listener). However, when “In Contempt” begins the band showcases a bombastic level of musicianship and melodic drama that grabs you by the throat and holds you tightly from here on in. It was with this tune where I realized how the correlation between them and Maiden came from and that is with singer Scott Oliva (no relation to the famous Jon from Savatage) as he displays some Dickinson-esque pipes. I found out after the fact about his fronting the Iron Maiden tribute Live After Death so this makes perfect sense. Without stroking his ego, I had to say that the singer also displayed vocals that reminded me a little of Midnight as well as Geoff Tate on occasion. It will be interesting to hear him come more into his own on a future release. The album is laden with powerful keyboards that come care of Mark Muchnik and they are used very effectively over the crushing guitar riffs of Craig Besemer who also handles the bass on the recording and the thundering drums of Mike Festa. While it is safe to say that I enjoyed the sum total of the album, my favorites fell to “In Contempt”, “Ghost Of A Man”, “Face The Fear Inside” and “The Dark Parade” right after the first listen. The band also makes use of clever interludes between a couple of the tracks and these do well to keep the mood and vibe of the album in place. The Dickinson vibe from Oliva on tracks like “Face The Fear Inside” are almost frightening and one would think that the legendary Brit was called in for help on the tune based on the dead on inflections and register that Scott is delivering. The band in the end is tight as the proverbial drum and the CD quickly found itself being spun once again after it had completed.
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