With two albums under their belt, Finnish progpower outfit Thaurorod have shown heaps of potential while never really living up to it. Their efforts have been lacking that certain something - until now, that is, as they deliver what will likely become their defining moment of glory. Coast Of Gold comes five years after the release of its predecessor, the band’s sophomore effort Anteinferno (2013), and if that album was a huge step up in intensity and songwriting chops from debut album Upon Haunted Battlefields (2010), this new album is a straight up punch in the jaw, as made immediately obvious in opening track Power and the following The Commonwealth Lives. The two tracks are high octane, kickass melodic crotch punchers that set the album off on a distinctly high note that already blows most of the previous material out of the gate. The first half of the album is a revelry in speedy melodics in the likes of Theocracy, with hints of Unisonic intensity and melodies out of Avantasia’s more power metal-ish numbers.
Thriving guitar lines, pounding drums and catchy riffage are tossed in with perfect marksmanship as the songs line up. Each following song delivering incredibly catchy melodies while soaring vocal lines gem the choruses like pearls, Andi Kravljaca’s (Aeon Zen, ex- Seventh Wonder) distinct voice delivering the goods, balancing expertly the difference between cheesiness and the innate power of his voice. From the immediately catching opener Power that delivers just that - power - to more progressively built 24601 and beautifully epic Feed The Flame, everything here just hits the spot perfectly, with the blistering guitar work of Lasse Nyman and Emil ‘Emppu’ Pohjalainen (Amberian Dawn) melding neatly with Harri Koskela’s (Embassy Of Silence) keyboards. The second half is slightly more subtle in delivery, but no less potent once you get to really experiencing it; set around mid tempo tracks and slightly more prog built structures, and with great moments particularly in Into The Flood and Illuminati.
The album sort of lacks something huge and epic, the likes of the title track from the previous album, but still does well without one. The shorter songs don’t rely so much on slowly building the epic scope, but still retains it, as it were. The closest would be seven minute Illuminati which follows in the same steps as ten minute Anteinferno from the previous album, though as with the rest of the album, kicks up the intensity and the instrumental delivery up a notch or two. Perhaps the weakest spot is closing ballad Halla, which although delivered with ample emotion and packing some great melodies doesn’t quite engage just like the rest of the material on here. A few years of building and songwriting seems to have done Thaurorod a world of good. The result being an album which is wholly better than anything the band has put out before it, and the best album of 2018 thus far. If in doubt after the previous two releases, Coast Of Gold displays that Thaurorod can deliver exactly the opening track states; Power.
When it comes to progressive power metal the days of a few big outfits maintaining a strong grip around the scene are gone. The last few years has seen a rise in younger outfits armed with plenty of inspiration and technical skills to set things in motion. Los Angeles born NovaReign aims with their debut album Legends to be one such band. With said debut album, the quintet delivers a hook driven set of interesting music, constantly driving and evolving in curious turns and led by the furious guitars, care of Balmore Lemus and Danny Nobel. Taking inspiration from the likes of Symphony X and Queensrÿche, NovaReign has a unique sound, and a level of depth and competence that doesn’t often come across on a debut album – though of course they have been doing their thing for the better part of a decade, and even released demo versions of some of the tracks back in 2014.
Right from the get go it’s full throttle and nonstop intensity. This makes the entire length somewhat daunting, especially since three of the tracks reach around ten minutes playtime. The entire album consists of an hour’s worth of music split into nine intense tracks that span a diverse range of power metal that heavily explores progressive elements and epic scenery delivered through the wealth of masterful guitars. Lemus and Nobel’s guitars seem sometimes dead set on show-off, and there are some truly impressive solo parts strewn across the album - take the very intro of opening track Call On The Storm for instance. It is however the intermittent dual harmonic parts and the myriad of heavy twin riffage that intertwines the intense solo action that truly stand out. There are some definite Angra moments in the guitars, as well as a Kamelot hint here and there, but generally, the music leans toward the guitar driven antics that don’t rely on heavy symphonic elements or keyboards.
The drums, laid to near perfection by Paul Contreras, remain the heavy backbone on which the guitars can rely throughout the album. Progressive and shifting at every turn he never stops, but keeps up with the slick guitars at all times. The short drum solo in Heavy Heart just goes to show that it doesn’t need to be overly complex to be very efficient. Legends by no means a perfect album; though made with competence and delivered with ample inspiration and technical skills it also seems to lack a certain dynamic range in its sound. The deep lows would be better off sounding deeper, to contrast the highs so much better, and a few tracks could do with a shaving down of a minute or two. It is however a wholly interesting album, with loads of talent strewn across the runtime that should sit well with fans of Queensrÿche or even MindMaze, and it counts a few pearls among it ranks, such as Skyline, with its epic vocal lines (and such a delivery by David Marquez!) and the intense mid section that starts low and rumbling with rhythmic riffage and evolves into a furious solo duel. Well worth checking out.
Standout tracks: Call On The Storm, Skyline, Legends
Visigoth is a named often dropped in regards to what is colloquially known as the Traditional Metal Revival, or the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal. Those who adhere to this movement - if it can so be called - have no intention of breaking new ground in terms of style or sound, but rather to conjure the greats of the eighties, and playing the same style, not seldom strictly by the book. Oftentimes it has resulted in a band much identical in sound to those who inspired them - and they are lauded for it. All this in the pursuit of striving ever backwards in a genre where the greats of old are still very much alive, kicking and releasing great music. And despite that obviously bleak introduction, Visigoth showed some promise on albeit rather dull The Revenant King, released three years ago. But here’s the twist. As a follow up, sophomore full length Conqueror’s Oath manages to deliver where the debut could not.
The Revenant King did sport a few growers in the track list, as well as some slick guitar work and an admittedly dense and immersive atmosphere. Still, the album did not manage to stick with me, and it seems at first glance that Conqueror’s Oath might prove me wrong about Visigoth. Sure enough, the album does kick off on the right note with Steel And Silver, a pounding march hymn complete with blistering lead guitar work straight out of the gate. Most of the material on here has been scaled down from the eight to ten minute opuses found on the debut. This downsizing works in its favor as the music becomes more accessible and airy. It might be argued that the music has been simplified, but that isn’t really the case. Visigoth sound more focused as they deliver an album steeped in fun and groovy rhythms hearkening back to the glory days of old in a way that sounds genuinely inspired, and not like copy-paste.
Jamison Palmer and Leeland Campana’s driving rhythms and sometimes noodling and always tingly lead guitars drive the music ever onward with interesting hooks and driven focus. Be it the fleshy riff work in opener Steel And Silver, the epic melodies of Hammerforged or the swift thrashiness of Salt City, the guitars take massive precedence, though always leaving enough room for a massive bass sound from Matthew Brown Brotheron. Vocalist Jake Rogers bellows with a big, impressive voice, ready for battle and truly makes up all the difference in what makes this sophomore effort a genuinely good album, as compared to the lackluster debut. Conqueror’s Oath is a fun and invigorating album, and thanks to the lyrical content still revolving around epic battles and the forging of steel rather than parties and booze, it keeps its freshness about it, landing along the same place as Eternal Armor’s debut album The Armor Of Ire (2016), and actually manages to be a thrill seeking exploration of metal rather than an overlong plodding of the same old-same old.
Standout tracks: Steel And Silver, Traitor’s Gate, Salt City