Fool`s Game - Reality Divine
Cruz Del Sur Music
Power Metal with Progressive Hints
9 songs (47'15")
Release year: 2009
Cruz Del Sur Music
Reviewed by Alex

Fool’s Game may be proof that the change of scenery sometimes can do wonders to your career. When some guy named Matt Crooks played in the local Virginia heavy power metal band called Division nobody heard of him (or Division for that matter). His old band went on to release three albums between 1996 and 2004, but the only notion I personally have of Division is their cover of Savatage’s Power of the Night on the Dwell Records tribute, and I am even questioning if it is the same band. When this Matt Crooks decided to write a few songs which would become the basis of Fool’s Game Reality Divine debut, he laid the foundation to what is so far one of my favorite melodic albums of 2009. And given the help of the prominent Italian quality label Cruz Del Sur, it is my sincere hope that many more will experience this outstanding blend of heavy traditional and power metal, with slight progressive tendencies mixed in for good measure.

Good things apparently started happening for Matt when he showed some of his songs to another Matt, Johnsen, guitarist of rising melodic star Pharaoh. Apparently, Johnsen was rather excited having heard the material and his Pharaoh – Cruz Del Sur connection proved to be not too shabby either. Hey, if I could play guitar and I heard what Crooks was about to unleash, I’d have wanted to be a part of that too. A few other prominent musicians, John Macaluso (ex-ARK, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) on drums and Nyk van Dyk (Redemption) on keyboards were happy to contribute and make the palette richer. Whereas Johnsen was able to come through with his expansive solos (When the Beginning Meets the End) and his trademark harmonies (As the Field of Dreams Was Abandoned, The Conqueror Worm), John provided an immovable underpinning in lockstep with Crooks’ bass, while Nyk added definitive atmosphere to many a song (Mass Psychosis) and outright progressive keyboard laser-like solos (The Conqueror Worm, The Wild Swans at Coole). Just like in a smoothly run kitchen, Matt Crooks was the executive chef laying down the groundwork for his meat & potatoes meal, with his colleagues contributing all kinds of extra spices and garnishes making this dish delicious.

In Reality Divine’s version of power metal the emphasis rests squarely on the word “power”. Without resorting to monotonous double bass kicks, the riffs on the album are a thing of beauty, muscular chewy chops which manage not to fizzle as the album rolls along. I found myself almost rooting for the team here not to throw in a filler midway through. When Prelude to the Fair opens up with its piano melody, I was hoping this would not be a sugary ballad. Not to disappoint, Fool’s Game turns this track into a heavy doomy intro leading into the symphonic, layered She Moved Through the Fair. The epic The Conqueror Worm and Sowing Dead Seeds have an amount of gloom almost unheard of in today’s power metal. The heavy riffs, the pensive atmosphere is why with every re-listen Reality Divine presented another facet, unlike many other melodic metal albums, which I liked at the beginning, but now can’t even remember except for “nice melodies”.

The cherry on top of this sundae is the vocals of Lars F. Larsen (Manticora). Not familiar with the Dane’s main band (although I probably should be), he delivers a passionate, emotion dripping performance, the one Fools Game music calls for. To complement his performance, I would have wanted to hear it even a little bit higher in the mix. Interestingly, just as the album’s heaviness sometimes makes it difficult to pinpoint the genre (the opening of When the Beginning Meets the End could have come off a death metal record), some moments in the vocal performance beg for rougher attitude and almost a growl. And when the one actually comes (When the Beginning Meets the End, Sowing Dead Seeds, The Wild Swans at Coole), as much as it is unexpected, it definitely feels just as right as a predictable big epic chorus (The Conqueror Worm).

I can see Reality Divine appealing to the whole spectrum of melodic metal fans, from Iced Earth to Evergrey, but if you were especially into Mercenary and Brainstorm to date, this album is not to be missed.

Killing Songs :
Mass Psychosis, When Beginning Meets the End, Sowing Dead Seeds, The Conqueror Worm, She Moved Through the Fair
Alex quoted 89 / 100
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