Eternity's End - Unyielding

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Released way in the ass end of the year, Eternity’s End’s sophomore album, Unyielding aims to close off 2018 with a bang. (Though in most parts of the world it isn’t actually released until later in 2019.) The German based super group released their first album, The Fire Within, to glowing reviews in 2016, and has since shed bassist Linus Klausenitzer (Alkaloid) and vocalist Ian Parry (Consortium Project), as well as recruiting a second guitarist in 2017; Phil Tougas (Chthe'ilist). Odds weren’t high for Mike LePond (Symphony X, Silent Assassins) to mantle the bass guitar because he’s literally everywhere, but the role of vocalist was rather lent to less renowned figure; namely Iuri Sanson, formerly of Hibria (those guys recently hired Victor Emeka, so look for more of them).

Eternity's End - Unyielding

Obviously, there are similarities to the likes of Symphony X and similar acts, as well as the more melodic power leanings of Lost Horizon. Parts of Unyielding is incredibly energetic and speedy as all hell, especially the first few tracks, which are outstanding; heavy and progressive in equal measure to the slight cheesy atmosphere, speed and melodic flair. The guitars, with Tougas and Christian Münzner dueling and carrying each other in the riffing department, is fresh and invigorating, but the highlights are in their frenetic lead play; that old school, Gamma Ray like tenacity that just revels in the fun and ferocious technicality of it all. And of course, when Jimmy Pitts’ keys enter the fray the battle of glorious lead melodics is turned to the next level. The bass presence is, as expected from LePond, prevalent and big sounding, pummeling with a fresh sense of clarity in the speedier parts, while also standing out and going above and beyond to add the extra flourishes, never following the leads but building his own dimension to the already fleshed out entirety, making the sound deeper and the songs get that LePond touch.

Powerful, sharp and poignant, every song tells a story of its own while feeling like an integral chapter of the arch. Instrumental mid album track Dreaming of Cimmerian Shadow is a rollicking melodic piece that divides the album between the first, speedy, powerful 20 minutes and the deeper, more evocative 27 minutes that comprise the second part of the album. The lyrics aren’t that far from what you might find on a power metal album set to be epic; fantastic tales of warriors from legend and marches into battle, you know - the same old same old. However, Eternity’s End still make it feel fresh and vigorous, and while there’s certainly a bit of cheesiness, it feels entirely appropriate and fitting. There’s just no part of the music that isn’t craned to a hundred, and they make everything click perfectly. I’d have preferred Sanson to delve into his deeper parts at times, but the high notes fit the speedy approach. The music is technical and melodic in equal measure, and it revels in the silly, but takes itself seriously as it soars ever onward on epic frets of fire, making Unyielding the last must hear of 2018. Or the first of 2019, whatever.

 

Standout tracks: Into Timeless Realms, Under Crimson Moonlight

 

    

 

Eternity's End - Into Timeless Realms

Divine Ascension - The Uncovering

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal, Symphonic Metal

Divine Ascension’s third full length is an intense album, and it’s packed with both technical prowess and the workings of great showmanship. The Aussie foursome has shown growth throughout their albums, no more so here. The Uncovering is set with a dark atmosphere, and a gloomy sense of hopelessness. The individual song structure and outlay remains fairly uniform throughout the album, as the songs are pretty similar to each other. This of course has both a good side and a bad side; the good side being that the album feels very much like the concept album it is, while the bad side is that it feels somewhat repetitive. The quality of the songwriting and the precision and passion on display in the musicianship however outweighs the bad side, since even though it’s slightly repetitive and a song or two might be cut, it’s still an overall very enjoyable listen.

Divine Ascension - The Uncovering

The guys certainly have big, powerful choruses covered, as almost every song on here just blows away in that department, but that’s never the sole focus. Opening track Evermore is a fairly slow affair, progressive and groovy in rhythm, but big and melodic in the lead section, with Jennifer Borg’s vocals and the vocal melodies shining atop. Tom Englund (Evergrey, Redemption) makes a guest appearance on Pursuit of Desire. While Borg needs no help to hold things up on her own, Englund adds another dimension and another layer, which adds to the overall feel; his style fits the music entirely and it’s just a shame he’s not on more of the album. Other tracks, like Beyond the Line and major highlight Bittersweet Divide have that gloomy feel and bring the feel to a high point, atmospheric and technically proficient alike, with Borg especially delivering great performances.

The riffs are clear and crisp all throughout, and Karl Szulik pulls some incredible leads that are as flashy as they are technichally proficient. The Fallen definitely stands out as a mention in that regard, with that neat intro and the mid passage, as well as New World which is just melodic sweetness from Szulik’s part. The guitars are definitely among the highlights, along with the keyboards always taking a prominent role, and always battling the guitars in swift solo duels or slower, atmospheric lead parts as in Prisoner or Revolution Phase. There’s something decidedly somber about the album, set in the lyrics, the theme, and the atmosphere, but it’s never to the album’s detriment; it’s wholly fitting. Divine Ascension have really come into their own with this album. It shows not only how they’ve grown from their previous efforts, but it’s also a great effort overall in the symphonic progpower genre. Overall, The Uncovering is a very strong album, and I can only see Divine Ascension going up from here.

 

Standout tracks: Evermore, Revolution Phase, Beyond the Line, Bittersweet Divide

 

    

 

Divine Ascension - Pursuit of Desire

Holter - Vlad The Impaler

Genre: Power Metal

Remember a few years back when Jørn Lande and Trond Holter released a kickass super melodramatic and ridiculously infectious album about Dracula? It had a ton of twists and ingenuitive songwriting, great guitar festivities and some of Lande’s greatest vocal performances to date? Well they recently got a divorce, and Holter got to keep the house. Then he invited Nils K Rue to a party and renamed the manor after just himself. I’ve no idea where I’m really going with this analogy, but this album is the follow up to 2015’s Dracula: Swing of Death, except it has no Jørn Lande (because they’re not talking, it’s a whole high school drama for another time) and no Lena Fløitmoen. Instead it has Nils K Rue and Eve Iselin Erichsen. So far so good, Rue has proven one of the great vocalists of power metal and handling it all with progressive might in main band Pagan’s Mind.

Holter - Vlad The Impaler

Except Vlad the Impaler has none of the gravity and none of the cheesy luster that made Swing of Death such an enjoyable listen. The songwriting has been scaled back, not just a notch, but several and what’s presented is your average power metal album with three-four minute songs. The great duets of the first album have also been tossed aside, with Rue and Erichsen mostly taking turns between songs, and the lackluster songwriting gives Rue very little opportunity to do what he does so well. Don’t get me wrong, the man has some great power building in a few tracks and a great presence that arguably rivals that of his predecessor, but his vocals just fails to match the music and it helps little that the music isn’t up to par. Holter himself aims to carry the album, and if what he did on stellar tracks like Walking on Water and Queen of the Dead on the first album is anything to go by, he needs no vocalist to help him. But, as with everything else, the guitars here are merely a shadow of their former self. Some good riffing can be found in tracks like Awakening or Drums of Doom, and cool melodic pieces and soloing across the album, but nothing that really stands out above average.

Save Me Part II is the best track on here. And get this, it’s not just a continuation or a new chapter of Save Me from the first album. It’s a slightly different retelling that’s mostly the same as the original. On here, Holter gets as heavy and gritty as the legend put on paper would demand and Rue shows why he’s a force to be reckoned with, and the duet works so fucking well. Even though it’s not really a “new” song, this is what the album would have needed more of - it arguably even beats the original, thanks to that long solo where Holter shines like a madman. On the whole though, there is little to save the album in a single really standout track and a couple of good ones. Even taken as is, without comparing it to its predecessor, it’s just horribly average in every way and ends up boring; from mediocre single I’ll Die For You to the average and forgettable title track, it’s just not very interesting. It doesn’t have the epic size that it’s going for, and Holter, having a history of great theatrical songwriting that’s both catchy and melodramatic at once, fails to deliver.

 

Standout tracks: Awakening, Save Me Part II

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Holter - I'll Die For You