Italian power metal expositors Arthemis had been out of studio action for five years before the release of B-F-D last month, so I was keen to see how the rest had affected the band, and whether the break had rejuvenated them.

However, on living with the album for a while it’s hard to draw any conclusions one way or the other as the album is just, well, a bit ordinary really.

Arthemis albums always stand or fall on the quality of Andrea Martongelli’s guitar playing, and on those terms the album is a success. Martongelli is an extremely underrated axeman, and he deploys all his tricks over the course of the record in an exciting performance. After that, however, the cupboard is fairly bare as far as praise is concerned. The first three songs (Undead, Black Sun, Blood Red Skies) are all pretty ordinary, one-paced affairs that sort of merge into one another without drawing undue attention to themselves, which means it isn’t until twelve minutes into the album that something really snags the ear. Blistering Eyes is the track in question, and pretty good it is too. Certainly much better than what’s gone before, that’s for sure, but the burst of momentum supplied by this song is immediately negated by an overlong and entirely unnecessary ballad, If I Fall.

The thrashy Warcry picks up the pace again, featuring some jagged riffage and a nice percussive performance from Francesco Tresca. However vocalist Fabio D sounds a little frazzled on the chorus, where his voice just doesn’t pack the punch the bellicose nature of the song really requires. Which is a shame. Next track Into the Arena is slower, with more melodic allure, and a very nice solo from that man Martongelli. Dark Fire, probably the best track here, starts in glorious over the top fashion and doesn’t let up for its four minute duration. Everything clicks for Arthemis on Dark Fire, and it’s a triumph as a result, not least thanks to some fine basswork from Giorgio Terenziani.

Firetribe then confuses matters by kicking off like a repurposed Sepultura offcut, which doesn’t really sit well with the other material on offer here. Again, some spirited guitar playing from Martongelli adds spice to the track, but the reality is that Firetribe is a bit of a weak link. Next track Inner-Fury Unleashed is little better, strapping together some groove metal riffs in unconvincing fashion, leaving final track Rituals to try and salvage some goodwill from the listener, which it does at least in part.

A confusing album, then. When Arthemis concentrate on doing what they’ve always done well, as they do on Dark Fire, they succeed. But for my tastes there’s just a little too much experimentation going on here – at the expense of the album’s focus – for this to be a successful album.

Arthemis’ Blood-Fury-Domination is out now on Scarlet Records