I’ve always been a huge fan of concept albums – having a whole album tied together with a coherent story makes me happier than a collection of unrelated songs, especially when that story is based on a classic novel that’s instantly relatable. Somehow, I managed to completely miss TRICK OR TREAT’S Rabbits’ Hill Pt. 1 when it came out in 2012, much to my regret. The first half of the telling of the story of the rabbits of Watership Down (from the seminal 1972 book by Richard Adams) was masterfully done and threw me back to my childhood. Finally, four years later, the story continues in Rabbits’ Hill Pt. 2 (July 8 via Frontiers Music) and I could not be more excited!
I’m not going to go too much into the story – that’s a book that everyone should read at least once, or at least watch the animated film – so for the most part, there are no spoilers in this review. The album would stand on its own, even without the great backstory. TRICK OR TREAT started out as a HELLOWEEN tribute band, but they’ve progressed far beyond that, while still retaining many of the elements from their early days. Alessandro Conti (LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY) absolutely nails the vocals with his amazing range, even channeling the great Michael Kiske at some points, and the twin guitar attack from Luca Venturelli and Guido Benedetti hit all of their marks with some classic solos that could have been from the late 1980’s, as well as a much more updated modern day sound. Add in some solid drumming and bass playing and this album is power metal gold.
The guests on the album are top notch, as well. Tony Kakko (SONATA ARCTICA) provides vocals on “United” as the rabbits of Watership Down prepare to defend their new home from tyrannical General Woundwort and the Owsla of Efrafa, and Sara Squadrani (ANCIENT BARDS) recorded what may be one of my top ballads of 2016 on “Never Say Goodbye”. Speaking of General Woundwort, Tim “Ripper” Owens absolutely destroys his part on “They Must Die” – you can feel the loathing and hatred for the rabbits of Watership Down with every line that he sings. I’m really glad that they didn’t go with the trope of death metal vocals for the General, because Ripper did a fantastic job.
The album is full of highs and lows – galloping happy power metal songs like “Cloudrider” and “The Great Escape” sit well alongside darker songs like “Efafra” and “They Must Die”. The final confrontation between Bigwig and Woundwort is masterful in the epic track “The Showdown”, and really brings the story to a close in a very satisfying way.
Several years later, when an old and tired Hazel is watching the next generation of rabbits playing in the fields, he is visited by the spirit rabbit El-Ahrairah, who invites him to join his own Owsla in the next world. Since the rabbits of Watership Down are now safe, Hazel accepts and departs his physical body. When I read the book or watch the movie, this never fails to bring tears to my eyes, and the epilogue track of “Last Breath” does pretty much the same thing – it’s a beautiful song that pays perfect tribute to the passing of Hazel.
Overall, this is a beautifully-constructed album and I can’t imagine any fan of classic power metal not falling in love with it instantly. This one is solidly in my top ten for 2016, and I don’t see it budging.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM