Not long ago I was having dinner with a very good friend of mine discussing about all those demos that we wished to be reissued, but we both knew was only wishful thinking. And then he mentioned Candle Opera, an extremely obscure heavy/ power band from Canada that somehow he managed to get one track from their long lost 1992 demo to upload in his Youtube Channel. Little did we both know then that at the same time Cult Metal Classics was working on a release of their long lost demo titled Dream Theatre.
So who exactly is Candle Opera and what so special about their demo tape? Candle Opera was formed from the ashes of Speed Power metal band Solar Eagle by Rob Straughan (drums) and Zsolt Henczely (bass) – who teamed up with Cari Rain Gates (guitar) and Damien Graves (guitar) and the songwriting process began. A year later, the band recruited vocalist Randy Bryte who wrote the lyrics for a 4 track demo tape that was distributed by the band. And like many hidden gems of the underground, that could have been the end of the story if it wasn’t for the excavators of Cult Metal Classics who uncovered the demo and are planning to release it in an 8 track album, along with 4 more tracks that got remastered in a proper release in August 2019.
The thing that sets apart Candle Opera than most other bands is their quite unique writing style. Their music will greatly please fans of Fifth Angel, Sanctuary, Titan Force and similar bands with powerful passionate vocals and are located in the borderline of USPM and progressive in the metal spectrum. However, that’s where the comparison ends. Taking advantage of his very unique voice quality, Randy Bryte vocal range spans from clean melodic tunes to hitting those high pitched notes and the next second he could utter hoarse howls. The guitars are tuned lower than most power metal groups of that period and are filled with distortion effects which adds an extra layer of primal aggression. The solos are fast, melodic and with a tendency of shredding. The bass skills of Zsolt Henczely are evident throughout the record and the production, while quite primitive, does its best to make his shine, and then we come to the drum arrangements which give this proggier feeling to the songs and along with the bass and the rhythm guitar form a troika of tightness.
The first 4 songs are all great compositions, starting with the “solid steel” intro riffs of “Quiet Minds” before allowing Bryte to take the reins of the song with his voice. Continuing to one of the album’s finest moments “I Can Feel It (In Your Eyes)”, where the drum intro gives way to the catchy bassline and along with the even catchier chorus, create one song that would be considered a classic if the band had proper promotion back in the day. On to “Base Sick”, you start to feel that peculiar songwriting that distinguishes Candle Opera from other bands. Again the vocals take the reins and lead the album to the final track of the demo tape “War”. Randy Bryte howls, screams and delivers melodic vocal lines, while we hear some of the albums finest guitarwork in one of the album’s highlights.
Side B of the album starts with “Don’t Look Now” and you will notice the difference in production in the song, although the songwriting quality and all the little things that make Candle Opera special are still there. I feel that the unreleased songs are a bit heavier. “The Island” is the closest thing the album has to a ballad, the Queensryche influences are quite evident. “Psycho X” again offers some great lead guitar parts and is probably the most “power metal” structured song of the album. The final song, “Bring on the Evil”, is a wonderful mid tempo anthem that you could swear that you can hear something written by the great Warrel Dane, and while not written as such, offers a great album finale.
The fact alone that Dream Theatre exists is great news, and even greater news is that it’s amazing. Cult Metal Classics has really outdone themselves with this excavation, and they are doing the world a great favor by making Candle Opera popular, even after all those years.
Release rating: 89/100
Favorite track: “I Can Feel It (In Your Eyes)”
Re-release date: August 23rd, 2019