Veonity - Legend Of The Starborn

Genre: Power Metal

Keywords for this review will be power metal, hold on to your butt because you’ll be reading the words a lot. Swedish power metal sensation Veonity are releasing their third album, Legend of the Starborn, and it’s high time to raise your axes to the sky. Story wise Legend of the Starborn seems to pick up somewhere around where predecessor Into the Void (2016) left off, but it also puts a twist or three to the narrative’s cheesy balls. This time it’s about Viking warriors (so far so power metal) and… Space Atlantis? Honestly, it’s a little hard to keep up, but the mighty choruses will have you sing praise to the Starborn and chant doom upon the tyrants of Atlantis in no time. The material showcases a clear growth since the previous album - not to mention first album Gladiator’s Tale (2015), with all throughout incredibly cohesive efforts by the band members.

Veonity - Legend Of The Starborn

With many power metal bands simplifying *cough*dumbing down*cough* their sound, Veonity takes it in the other direction. With Legend of the Starborn they steer their flashy, over the top cheesy brand of power metal into slightly more progressive territories; with some of the song lengths and structures here hinting of such at times, while still remaining firmly in power metal territory and just dabbling in the sidelines with neighboring styles and genres. Vocalist and guitarist Anders Sköld pulls some mighty shouts and delivers each verse with plenty of passion beneath every syllable. Perhaps the strongest guiding light is the guitars, by Samuel Lundström and Sköld, be it in the flashy high notes and solos of Gates of Hell or the flashy guitar antics in Outcasts of Eden take sharp turns for the huge and epic in tracks like Rise Again and rifflicious Warrior of the North, ever complemented the tight rhythm section with Kristoffer Lidre’s fleshy bass lines and the steady groundwork laid by Joel Kollberg’s drums.

Some passages are repetitive, making several of the songs slightly overlong, with the chorus often being repeated one time too many. Case in point being otherwise stellar opener Rise Again, which might benefit from a 20 or 30 second trim, to feel more concise. Couple that with the fact that only a single track is under five minutes in length (excluding The Prophecy), and Legend of the Starborn can be a daunting listen, that certainly needs you to give it time. Granted, there’s not a single moment here where you’ll be bored; it’s an adventure from start to finish and pure entertainment, cheesy in all its gloriousness, and there’s always something going on, most often with Lundströms guitars which are a delight to listen to. Unfortunately, the closing third of the album isn’t entirely as gripping as the first two. After album highlights Warrior of the North and Gates of Hell, the last four tracks kind of mesh together with balladry and some unnecessary pandering in closing track United We Stand. It just never really hits as hard as the preceding highs, though To the Gods would be a great closer if ended on that note.

Hold on to your butts, I’m going to pull references here to very recent outing by Marius Danielsen’s Legend of Valley Doom. In comparison to said project, Veonity know to stick to the music, and do their thing with flying banners and great passion and intensity whereas Danielsen may have recruited all the great vocalists, but the latest Legend of Valley Doom release still had me skipping ahead from undeserved ballads and crappy narrations (way to waste Olaf Hayer, Danielsen). Veonity screws that unnecessary shit and goes with what guitarist Lundström calls, “not the most innovative album of the century, but it’s power metal in spades”. They know what they do, and they do it so well and with all that love for power metal that’s needed to pull it off. These guys are doubtlessly on a quest to join the greats of power metal, and judging by the material on here and their continued growth, it’s a quest that cannot fail. Any power metal fan should be all over this like yesterday to call out across the land and spread the word to every man; Veonity is coming to town.

 

Standout tracks: Rise Again, Warrior of the North, Gates of Hell

Power metal count: 10

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Veonity - Guiding Light

Ashes Of Ares - Well Of Souls

Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal

Am I an old school Iced Earth fan boy? Maybe. Have I been waiting anxiously for the follow up to Ashes of Ares’ self titled debut since it was released in 2013? Maybe. Am I going to love this album? Not so maybe. That first album is kickass, and it’s taken five long years but Matt Barlow and Freddie Vidales (both ex- Iced Earth) finally dunnit, releasing follow up Well of Souls in November. A big part of what Ashes of Ares is, is a kind of Iced Earth extension, so you will always find that side of the sound in there, but Well of Souls takes a wide step from what was introduced on the self titled debut, while still sticking largely to the same formula. Vidales is showing his colors not only as a guitarist - there are some pretty sick guitar parts and sweet ass solos on here - but as a songwriter. His influences go some ways beyond the Iced Earth (and let’s face it, Maiden) -esque sound, to dabble in the more extreme and most importantly the arcane progressive. It helps that Van Williams (Ghost Ship Octavius, ex- Nevermore) has added a big touch to the sound, with his progressive background and current leanings - he has left Ashes of Ares since the first album, but still mans the drums here as a guest, appropriately enough.

Ashes Of Ares - Well Of Souls

Pyramaze keyboardist Jonah Weingarten also makes a guest appearance, opening the album up with the intro to Consuming the Mana. He does so in a fashion that distinctly recalls some of his most captive moments from Pyramaze, the deep, invoking keyboards setting the scene. Vidales’ then takes over, and Barlow gives off a banshee like scream to show - he’s still got it. The rest of the song fully sets the tone for the rest of the album; thrashy, powerful and packed to the brim with fleshy riffage and big vocals. Somehow, the first half of the album is slightly less captivating than the second. Mind you, tracks like Unworthy and The Alien still set some massive groundwork especially in the rhythm section and Vidales’ lead guitars (the solo in The Alien is frickin massive), while opting for the bombastic and heavy approach, Williams adding a touch of his signature progressive touches. It takes a slight dip with ballad Soul Searcher and the following Sun Dragon, both of which remain fairly anonymous.

The second half then, takes all the good parts of the first and blows it up with a blast of intensity and creativity. Barlow’s vocals take a turn for the emotional and melodramatic in Let All Despair (if you haven’t gotten a fill of your big sounding Iced Earth semi-ballads lately, there it is), and melodies soar mightily in In The Darkness and Time Traveler, the latter taking a slightly speedy route to set the stage for The God of War, closing the album with loads of fleshy power. That is, except the bonus song You Know My Name, a cover of the Chris Cornell song. It’s a nice little tribute, but pretty anonymous and not up to the standards of the rest of the album. Coming just a few months after Barlow’s debut full length alongside aforementioned Pyramaze keyboardist Weingarten - called We Are Sentinels - this album should sate every need for classic Iced Earth antics, while also standing well on its own and growing what was begun five years ago. Opener Consuming the Mana will sate your need for heavy riffing from Vidales and thrashy Barlow works, while Let All Despair gives you all the melodrama Barlow is known for. The wait was well worth it, as Well of Souls easily grows over its predecessor and in gloriously heavy fashion delivers rifftastic anthems one after the other. The god of war awaits.

 

Standout tracks: Consuming The Mana, Let All Despair, In The Darkness, Time Traveler

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Ashes Of Ares - The Alien

Lost In Thought - Renascence

Genre: Progressive Metal

Hoping their renaissance will bring a new life the so long dormant Lost In Thought, the British prog outfit return with their second full length, Renascence. The first album, titled Opus Arise, was released in 2011 and since then it’s been utterly silent around the band. What strikes immediately upon the first listen of Renascence is that there’s an initial intensity that sticks from the first moment and to the last. Very atmospheric and driven by strikingly emotive vocals by Deane Lazenby, the album manages to pull at the heart strings in a very effective way. In this it might be likened a bit to the latest Kingcrow album, but with a bigger, more epic sound lending melodics from the likes of Poem. Renascence doesn’t have a commercial flair, it’s not going to ask you to like it, not going to beg for attention. But holy shit, if you sit your ass down and give it the time, the attention, the peace of mind, that it deserves, it will return all you give.

Lost In Thought - Renascence

Easily one of the best albums of the year so far (and there’s not much left) and a reason why November 2018 rocks, it’s a work of honesty. It’s done exactly as Lost In Thought wants it, and it delivers loads of passion. More so than the predecessor, Lost In Thought deliver melodic pieces unheard, the buildup magnificent in every song (though perhaps mostly on the three that go above seven minutes in length), starting humbly only to come into a burst of energy and going through a softer, melancholy part that yet grows into the feels trip the song comprises. The musicianship is flawless; no point herein warrants a word of complaint. From the heart wrenching vocals of Lazenby to Chris Billingham’s tight drum works (the drum lines in Absolution is particularly sweet, in my humble opinion). There’s a poppy approachability sometimes to Diego Zapatero’s (Mercury Rex) keyboards, but it’s done consciously and with plenty of underlying pressure in thrifty riffing from David Grey, so much so that said approachability won’t make a single moment feel unwarranted or unsubstantiated.

Oddly enough, the album doesn’t end on Legacy, which would feel like the natural conclusion. Instead it ends on Absolution. Don’t get me wrong, but the ending of Legacy would have felt the natural closer - and it should say a lot that my complaints about this album are about which song to end it on. Renascence is a very even listen, perhaps too even in a way. Not that what it presents is ever bad or even below really good, but that some larger degrees of variations to heighten contrast and make the emotional highs strike that much harder, would have been beneficial. To return a bit to the aforementioned approachability, Renascence sounds flashy, but even when you go beyond that, there’s still a lot to gain from each listen, each time you feel the songs again, how Grey’s guitars work alongside Zapatero’s highly prevalent keys make it sound so much more than it might have; how the guitar solos are worked to perfection and made as complete parts of the whole, and… so much more. A work of art, but one you have to feel to understand, and to think I nearly missed it.

 

Standout tracks: A New Life, Save Me, Absolution

 

    

 

Lost In Thought - A New Life