Recently, I’ve been getting really into Serenity’s first two albums, the great Words Untold & Dreams Unlived (2007) and Fallen Sanctuary (2008). Even though their style shifted to lose some of its deep progressive elements after that, the Austrian power metal outfit has kept some standard of quality, and albums like War Of Ages (2013) and Codex Atlanticus (2016) were though not quite up to the standards of the first two albums, still quality symphonic power metal. It is perhaps their last album, Lionheart (2018) that drops the ball the most, being almost wholly uninteresting with few redeeming features. Not ones to sit idly however, Serenity are back already with another collection of historic tales, this time about Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (quite a mouthful); The Last Knight.
Luckily, the Austrians don’t tread entirely in the footsteps of Lionheart this time, but take another step into diverging territories of the symphonic and orchestral. Say what you will about Serenity, but they’re never about to sit still and let any genre define them, as The Last Knight prove to toss some antics and theatrics close to the Death & Legacy (2011) album, while still moving along a sound akin to the previous album. Single Set the World on Fire is a fairly poppy number, crowd pleaser with little new to actually bring aside from a short guest spot from Herbie Langhans (Radiant, ex- Sinbreed); it’s the kind of tune that does its job but little more. In fact, the really interesting stuff doesn’t show up until mid album, with My Kingdom Comes and Queen of Avalon. These fist pumping melodic numbers feel more driven, with high flying melodic guitars from Christian Hermsdörfer and more intensity in the vocal delivery from Georg Neuhauser - and a shoutout to speedy Wings of Pride toward the end of the album as well; that's sweet epicness right there.
Excluding the movie score like intro, every song on the album is around four minutes making the listen kind of blocky and linear. While it’s fine in straightforward songs like Keeper of the Knights it makes others seem like they lack that climactic zenith that Serenity does so well. So they’re obviously aiming for an epic sound, but meanwhile wanting to placate a short attention span audience making songs like Invictus and closer Call to Arms fall short of their potential. Some part wishes they’d just let loose and pull that ten minute epic we all know they’ve been hinting at since Codex Atlanticus, because the modern Sabaton-esque inspired short and bombastic arena “epics” aren’t Serenity’s forte; or at least not as splendidly delivered as the highlights on this album and the past ones. The Last Knight is definitely a step back to form with some glorious moments and sweeping, melodic theatrics alongside the big vocal arrangements, but it also falls short at times. It gets the job done and perhaps that’s all it takes sometimes, but I’ll still be going back to where the dark is born.
Standout tracks: My Kingdom Comes, Queen of Avalon, Wings of Pride