In their 30-year career, Danish rockers Pretty Maids have never managed to crack the household name status like many of their contemporaries. They've made some blips on the radar, like with their 1987 second major label album, “Future World,” guided by legendary Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer – that album's title track is still turning up periodically on '80s rock compilation discs. Pretty Maids began life as a somewhat sweetened take on the Paul DiAnno-fronted Iron Maiden, tastefully blending keys and synths into hardened, rhythmically dangerous metal. On “Motherland,” the band has taken this formula to aggressive new heights that beg to be noticed.
Think Bullet For My Valentine's infectious metal-encrusted hooks meets the grand, dark beauty of Opeth and you've pinpointed Pretty Maids' 2013 sound fairly well. The topical, politically acrimonious opener “Mother of All Lies,” with incensed lyrical protest like, “Can't you see, they're twisting our reality, never practicing what they preach,” and heavy-handed riffing blows the lid off of any preconceptions that this band is mired in commercial hard rock complacency. Similarly, the ambient, mid-tempo keyboard barrage of “To Fool a Nation” packages empathy for the “sitting ducks” of undisclosed democracies into easily digestible, melodic, Beatle-esque metal.
Prime cuts like “The Iceman” are as thrill ride pummeling as any power metal Helloween has recorded, tempered with the funhouse-mirrored keyboards Morten Sandager crafts into diabolic landscapes – on par with Stratovarius pianist Jens Johansson. The haunting vortex of “Why So Serious?” is typical of vocalist Ronnie Atkins' breathy snarl, adding emotional depth to the band's uniquely European symphonic metal-meets-classic hard rock sound.
Infernal and heavy, dark and infectious arena-ready metal, Pretty Maids remain contemporarily dynamic in a genre filled with endless retreads.
Pretty Maids 'Motherland' Rating: W W W W