"The Third Cage"

 By The Sun Jester

Released on Frontiers Records, vocalist Tony Martin and guitarist Dario Mollo are teaming up for the first time since 2002 on a new album, The Third Cage. Starting with the lead single, a blistering song entitled "Wicked World". Martin's vocals have lost none of their wallop in the last 9 years and his lyrics compliment the crushing rhythm section and Mollo's incendiary guitar work. The second song "Cirque du Freak" boasts a tremendous groove and another soaring vocal performance from Tony Martin. The pulsing keyboards in the verses and acoustic guitar in the chorus are nice touches. "Oh My Soul" moves with a stately grace vaguely reminiscent of Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers". Martin sings the bitter, anguished lyrics with passion and immediacy and Mollo's lead guitar work is overflowing with color. The slide guitar is a nice touch.

"One of the Few" is a solid rocker with a catchy chorus, but never really catches fire until the last minute and ends abruptly. The next song, "Still in Love with You", is a grinding, stuttering slab of hard rock. Martin's forceful, swaggering vocals are a perfect match for Mollo's intense playing. Despite his obvious ability, Mollo's guitar never overwhelms these songs. Disposable albums of self-styled guitar gods with a name vocalist and a collection of songs in name only that are just glorified vehicles for his solos litter the history of rock music. This is not one of those albums. "Can't Stay Here" kicks off with an interesting keyboard introduction before launching into jagged, catchy riff. The song is in the same vein as the earlier "One of the Few" - a big chorus, muscular guitar, and a melodic solo. Mollo wears his influences on his sleeve, but like all great players, he manages to stamp those licks with twists and uses that are his own. "Wardance" is a solid song with a powerful, timeless message, but there are not enough musical ideas here to stretch over six minutes. At four and a half minutes, this would be a tightly focused number and among the best on the album. "Don't Know What It Is About You" is another stab at a rocker in the 80's-early 90's vein that succeeds on the strength of another strong Martin vocal and Mollo's energetic guitar playing. Despite running a little over five minutes long, "Blind Fury" is an intense, focused rock song. Martin spits the dark lyrics out, stressing syllables, and embodying the spirit of the song with his characteristic passion. The album's final song, "Violet Moon", has strong harmonies and the spare, desperate beauty of old lovers reuniting after years apart, but despite the terrific singing and playing, the song is far too long and the harder section feels tacked on to what would have otherwise been a soft, introspective finale to the album.

 Anyone who loved the first two Cage albums will be happy with this release. Recommended