Edward De Rosa - Zeitgeist

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Italy has always been a big contributor to the power metal scene, ever since the second coming in the latter part of the ‘90s. But what with Italy being a bit of a disappointment pit lately (certain albums excluded, *cough* Elvenking *cough*, who’d have thought such a piece of interesting, passionate power metal should once more come soaring on majestic winds from the land of Fabio Lione? Edward De Rosa’s debut album Zeitgeist has a big thing going for it; mainly, it doesn’t exactly have that typical Italian sound, while still being exactly Italian. It’s a “side project” of guitarist Valerio De Rosa (Soul Of Steel)  - hence obviously naming it Edward, because it’s much, much cooler - it’s fairly guitar forward, but not overly “look at me as I jack off this guitar” as many such projects are. This also makes the inclusion of such a track - the frenzied Replicants - much more tolerable and, dare I say it, enjoyable.

Edward De Rosa - Zeitgeist

What’s offered is not your generic power metal though, nor is it very symphonic, as might be expected given many factors and prejudices. Edward De Rosa offer a high octane guitar driven progpower heavy on the catchiness, and with highly catchy and passionately delivered vocal lines that will have you humming along to Giacomo Voli’s (Rhapsody) powerful voice on the first listen. There’s a lot of focus on the vocals here, and why not, with Voli lending his expertise. Sure, the guy’s still no Fabio Lione, but he has a very rich tone and some Ashley Edison (Power Quest) like stylistics and touches of Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius), while sounding very modern. De Rosa adds his flamboyant guitar touches without being in your face about it; the solos are appropriate, the leads driving and affectionately allowed to stay behind Voli when the music needs it; everything is in the right amount, no show off, no unnecessary filler. 

You’ll find the extravagant power metal antics in opener (excluding the intro) Legend: The Omega Man and highlight Burning Skies. On the other hand there are tracks like Ghost of the Ruins and The Sleep of Reason are slightly more progressively built, with some more complex timings and tempo shifts. The former of the two also infuses some oriental, folky vibes and also a sense of mystique to give depth to the theme. At times the album is pretty ballsy; there are a couple of tunes with folksy inspiration, and toward the end there’s Fight Of Life which starts with a powerful melodic instrumental half, before introducing a bit of Voli’s vocals in a mysterious tone - and then it really takes off with another instrumental half, flourishing with infective melodics. The rhythm play is incredible, the guitars catchy as a cold in hell as they get to duel some keys and a far off set of bagpipes. The melodic play is some of the best on the album, and that’s saying some, because De Rosa means business on here. Zeitgeist came out of nowhere, nary a hint about its existence before it was already there, and it turns out to be such a powerful, catchy listening experience, sure to grow even further with repeated listens; a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Damn it Italy, I can’t stay angry with you for long.

 

Standout tracks: Legend: The Omega Man, Ghost of the Ruins, Burning Skies

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Edward De Rosa - Legend: The Omega Man

Heir Apparent - The View From Below

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Heir Apparent first started out way back in 1983, releasing their debut album Graceful Inheritance and following it up with One Small Voice (1989). Then the ‘90s went all ‘90s on the Seattle prog metal group, and although they’ve been active since 2000 it’s not until October 2018 that the third full length was finally released. Titled The View From Below, it showcases a definitely modern touch of progressive power metal, not intent on bringing back the days of yore but on bringing the band into a new era. Whether or not it is a worthy comeback is better left to fans of the previous two albums, but it is a decent album. There’s some new personnel on here, in vocalist Will Shaw (Athem, ex- Abodean Sky) and keyboardist Op Sakiya (Screams of Angels). Derek Peace, Terry Gorle and Ray Schwartz - on bass, guitar and drums respectively - remain from the first two albums.

Heir Apparent - The View From Below

The tempos are downsized, the musicianship on point, the sound crisp and clear, the tone of the album critical and poignant. Gorle’s guitars take a frequent lead position, but do trade off with Shaw’s distinct cleans as the melodic touch, delivering plenty of vibrant instrumentals that just as soon burst into colorful solos as they do into emotive choruses for Shaw to fill in. The burst toward the end of The Door is slow but packed to the rim with energy that Gorle releases in a slow solo that then trades off to an emotive last passage from Shaw, who makes this album his own with passion aplenty to go with the smooth riffing and the grooving bass lines.

However, there is a problem on this album, and that is the pacing. The album certainly needs more speed and intensity in some places. The slow tempo throughout makes it seem longer than it actually is - the album clocks in at a modest (well, by today’s standards anyhow) 45 minutes. The only track that speeds things up a little is Savior, in the middle of the album - and it’s only two and a half minutes long. Interweaving more speedy elements, which don’t necessarily have to be speed metal, would pick the album’s pace up and make it a smoother listen. Here We Aren’t and Synthetic Lies unfortunately drag the momentum to a near halt after the first two songs open the album on a fairly low paced, but still fresh note. The former is a slow ballad, and while it’s not necessarily a bad song, it’s way too early and undeserved after a mere twelve minutes of opening. The three closing songs fare better, however and coupled with the equally well fleshed out start, manage to make The View From Below an enjoyable, but nowhere near essential, listen.

 

Standout tracks: Man in the Sky, The Door, Further and Farther

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Heir Apparent - Man in the Sky

Salvation's End - The Divine Wrath of Existence

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Where to begin with Salvation’s End. Their debut album, titled The Divine Wrath of Existence it’s a lengthy feature, epic in its own right and yet still feels like part of a larger scheme. Immediately we are tossed into a world of heavy riffing bordering on death metal influenced with sweet leads out of progpower, rhythmic pounding and gritty vocals in opener Death of Reason to set things off right with a catchy, yet menacing introduction to the world we enter. Expressive, dark and moody, the album portrays a man who does not age and sees the world through different stages, and how history repeats. Sometimes pessimistic, the theme is driven not only by Rob Lundgren’s (Powerdrive, Scientic) vocals, but also by TJ Richardson’s (Halloween) multi faceted guitar work.

Salvation's End - The Divine Wrath of Existence

While definitely grounded in a progressive sound, with long tracks and shifting beats and compelling hooks, there are levels of power metal in the melodic pieces as well. There is also some melodic death metal influences, showcased in blastbeats and the guitar tone of Richardson, sometimes reminiscent of the likes of Into Eternity. Lundgren, who is most famous for doing cover songs on YouTube, delivers a gritty persona to the mysterious character that wanders the ages. His voice and style here is reminiscent of something around Thomas Winkler (Gloryhammer) - whom Lundgren also replaced for a while in Chinese band Barque of Dante - and Urban breed (Serious Black, ex- Bloodbound). The vocal parts are equal parts melodic to hard edged and are never the sole focal point of the music. Perhaps a few bigger sounding choruses might have been preferential, but the subdued nature and larger build up that the album creates, makes Lundgren a perfect fit. It’s unfortunate that he’s unlikely to appear on a potential follow up.

The best part of the album might just be the beginning; starting off with the aforementioned Death of Reason, the album’s hard hitter immediately follows. Languorem is an intelligent piece driven by fury and mad guitars from Richardson, as well as melodic leads and a heavy, driving chorus. The melody will get stuck in your brain. Toward the album’s latter half, there are a few less interesting tracks. Translucent Memory, which borders on balladry in parts, is the least compelling song on the album; Lundgren doesn’t hold the emotional weight he might should have needed and the overly slow tempo does no favors to the whole, whereas Climb the Cross drags on uninterestingly. They do not affect the whole album overmuch however as it is filled with great tracks such as Crimson Sunrise, evil and brooding with electrifying guitars from Richardson, and the title track closing off on a 10 minute high point.

The Divine Wrath of Existence bridges the worlds of melodeath and progpower, and does so with an innate sense of purpose. As such it should likely appease fans of both genres, as well as sate the needs of power metal fans thanks to Lundgren’s appealing vocals. It’s definitely a hard album to get into – this review has taken longer than I want to admit to get through – but a rewarding one that not only warrants, but requires, multiple listens to fully sink in and let the weight with which it will ultimately loom over the edge sink in.

 

Standout tracks: Death of Reason, Languorem, Awakening, The Divine Wrath of Existence

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Salvation's End - Death of Reason