It all began in the year of our lord, 2006, when Symphonity was born in Brno, renaming the Nemesis moniker and going on to release acclaimed debut Voice from the Silence (2008). Then silence followed. Eight long years of it. Until finally. King of Persia (2016) struck like thunder and lightning, taking the symphonic concept and developing it with heavy riffing, with a line-up that seemed tighter than ever. In 2019 came the first single heralding the Marco Polo centric full length; Crimson Silk, showcasing the power performances from new vocalists Antonio Abate (Perseus) and Mayo Petranin (ex- Signum Regis). It would take even further line-up changes and another three years, but Symphonity’s long awaited third full length is finally here; Marco Polo: The Metal Soundtrack. Clocking in at 42 minutes, we’re offered six actual songs - two of which released as singles in 2019 and 2020 respectively - as well as an intro, outro and an interlude. The first three tracks are great, exceeding all expectations. I’ve already gone into Crimson Silk when the single was released, though arguably it was better back then. For the album, Abate’s parts have been redone by Konstantin Naumenko (Sunrise), recruited in 2020.
Naumenko is a great vocalist, but ever since he was announced as Antonio Abate’s (Perseus) successor and since the first single - Dreaming of Home - was released, I’ve wondered if he was the right fit for Symphonity. His Tony Kakko like voice is a far cry from Olaf Hayer’s operatic chops, and even Abate’s larger than life pipes displayed only in the Crimson Silk single. Naumenko does get to show his quality later on in the album, though, but the first few tracks belong mostly to Petranin. Dreaming of Home redeems itself on repeat listens, Naumenko’s vocals beginning to stand out as the highlight of the powerful ballad; it’s nothing super special, but it fits the album. Stylistically, the album follows pretty naturally on the sound introduced on King of Persia. Expectations of soaring, symphonic numbers plucked from their 2008 debut will be met with disappointment. What is expressly evident however is Libor Křivák’s phenomenal songwriting; the man can pen a sentimental power ballad like nobody’s business - Dreaming of Home - just as well as a fleshy, power metal banger - The Plague - and can turn up the epic to eleven when needed - Crimson Silk. The absolute highlight however is obviously ten minute epic Mongols.
Starting off with some massive riffage, Mongols sees the guys incorporate Mongolian throat singing as well as an interlude with several instruments native to that part of Asia. Adventurous and monumentally heavy, Mongols is a progressive beast, and likely one of Symphonity’s most aggressive numbers so far - and it sports one of their most melodic, epic choruses. It is not however representative of the album as a whole, which plays it safe more than not, in terms of songwriting. It is hindered as well by its relatively short length and the stilted listening thanks to the narration that breaks every song and halts any momentum. And it feels like it’s missing several chapters from ol’ Marco’s life and journeys. While King of Persia faltered at times, it always had the power and hunger, and it reveled in the love for the craft. This is partly where Marco Polo: The Metal Soundtrack fails to fully deliver. Still, let me get this straight. While Marco Polo: The Metal Soundtrack lacks in many ways (especially compared to its direct predecessor) it is absolutely a worthy addition to the Symphonity discography. It shows Křivák’s ability to adapt, and it showcases the band’s evolution phenomenally, and a few songs belong in every power metal fan’s playlists. Any Křivák fan will be delighted.
Standout tracks: Crimson Silk, The Plague, Mongols