Intense – Second Sight Review

Intense Second Sight
Underground Symphony, 2004
For fans of: Sentenced, Savatage, Iced Earth

Sean Hetherington – Lead Vocals
Nick Palmer – Guitars
Neil Ablard – Drums
Dave Peak – Guitars
Adrian Lambert – Bass

Produced by Karl Groom

1. Intro – Premonition
2. One Twenty
3. The Winged
4. War Of Angels
5. Seeds Of Betrayal
6. The Skull Of Sidon
7. Inside Torment
8. Collision Of Destinies
9. Autumnheart
10. Path Of The Dark
11. Your Final Breath
12. The Way The Rivers Flow (bonus)

It’s far too easy to take a genre like power metal and throw it all into one big category of cheese — after all, usually the cover art, song titles, and goofy lyrics predispose it to ridicule. But in recent years, things have stiffened up a bit and respect has been given when due. With that, it’s great to see a band like Intense following that trend.

While there remain the original signatures of power metal all over the band’s second effort, Second Sight taps the harder side made popular by bands like Iced Earth while keeping the textures mixed and unpredictable. While traces of Iron Maiden and Dream Theater influence are easily seen, the band remains unique with down-to-earth vocals and understated keyboard presence. Rather than complete bombast, Intense seems better at creating actual songs than simply showing off their musical prowess. Not to say there isn’t prowess abound — when looking for guitar solos, this may be one of the best places I’ve seen to look in quite some time.

That’s what makes Second Sight more than just unique for its genre. It’s what makes for good songs. Oh, sure, some of the lyrics remain replete with your typical fantasy knights-and-warriors fun that more than peppers power metal and sometimes takes away from the music beneath. However, they’re definitely at their songwriting best when cliche is set aside, such as on “One Twenty” and “Inside Torment.” Overlooking the occasionally goofy lyrics is easy when the melodies beneath are what really carry the songs. Solos are complex, but fit comfortably within the songs instead of sitting on top like a recital. The drum work is strong, particularly on “War of Angels,” without being overbearing.

The vocalist, Sean Heatherington, is perhaps the one element of Intense that makes them stand apart from their peers. His vocal range is relatively short. He doesn’t squeal or scream, growl or grunt. It’s refreshingly different and makes Second Sight easier on the ears to those who aren’t traditionally power metal fans. One might say this detracts in the sense of the genre (and likely hurts them overseas, where fans are traditionally less open to change), but for the common listener and non-fanatic, Heatherington gives the band a wider ability to appeal to different audiences. The only complaint found here was his lack of emotional range. His voice sounds fine, he just sounds like he’s reading and singing along instead of feeling the music, as opposed to the guitar playing on the disc which at times oozes emotion.

The album starts off dramatically with the intro “Premonition” leading into “One Twenty,” an aggressive number and very strong opener to the album. One can find standard power metal fare in “The Winged” and “Autumnheart.” “Inside Torment” is extremely strong, once again showcasing the band’s ability to truly write a good strong song when given the opportunity. “War of Angels” kicks the speed up a notch and compels the listener to throw fists into the air like a true warrior. The album’s namesake is found in “Path of the Dark,” easily the strongest tune of the disc. While nothing truly original or innovative, it’s a showcase of the talent in each member of the band.