Welcome to the November 2020 Crusade of Power! We’ve got some high quality metal in store for you this month so on with the show! enjoy!
Jeff Metal & Gio Smet’s Devil’s Desire
Despite being hampered by a bargain-basement production that does the songs no favours, Jeff Metal and Gio Smet‘s The Soul Remains Alive actually contains some great heavy/power metal that’s well worth a listen if the more traditional end of the metal spectrum is where you affections lie. Songs like The Gate is Here are actually right out of the top draw, with guitarist/vocalist Jeff Metal contributing some top notch six string work, whilst the stately, keyboard-swathed Invisible Evil, the album’s best track, sounds like something Iron Maiden might have thought about recording circa Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son…
At times the lack of dynamics in the production does become a problem, with some of the less memorable songs tending to clag together in a samey, mid-ranged swamp, but that shouldn’t stop you from at least having a listen to an album that really does contain some excellently written and played material.
From the staggering cover art onwards, there’s a sense of class that thoroughly permeates this new release from Salt Lake City’s Principium. Last seen around these parts with their 2016 EP A Crown of Ashes, I’m pleased to report that the band has come on in leaps and bounds since then, in the process delivering an album that ranks among the best we’ve seen at The Crusade in some time.
Mixing strands of US power/thrash metal (especially Iced Earth and Megadeth in their more melodic, measured moods) with a slightly German feel (John Yelland‘s vocals more than occasionally remind the listener of Blind Guardian‘s Hansi Kürsch), Principium hit paydirt time and time again with this self-titled opus. Jordan Sellars contributes some quite spellbinding leadwork, augmented by his rhythm buddy Tyler Beckstrom, whilst bassist Erik Zimmer contributes a nicely growling tone, particularly on the excellent Skeletons At The Banquet, which might have a few fans of old Savatage dancing in the aisles when they hear it’s superb, staccato riffage and multi-layered vocals.
As drummer and co-founder Casey Frederick says, “This album is a culmination of where we have been and where we are going”… well, on the evidence of this superb slice of heavy metal there’ s a good chance Principium could be going all the way to international recognition and beyond – get involved now! Release of the month!
Bulgaria’s Rosebourg offer up a lot of strange hybrids on their new album Sweeter Than Your Love; A cursory listen to the gravel-throated roaring of vocalist Vasil Vasilev might lead one to believe that what we’re dealing with here is a straight-down-the-line death metal outfit. Yet the rest of the band often drift in to musical passages that are anything but; Opening track Eradicate The Liars musically seems to come from the world of AOR/hard rock, whilst more progressive tracks like Sweeter have all the restrained majesty of Queensrÿche circa Empire about them.
And then there’s Pieces, a nice mashup of mid-eighties Judas Priest and Iron Maiden; Midway through the album you’ll be feeling seriously disorientated with this weird mix-and-match approach, but – and it’s a big but – the slightly grating Godhead aside, none of these tracks will have you reaching for the fast forward button. Somehow they make it all hang together (Julien Iliev‘s superb lead guitar performance might be the key), and when it all comes together completely, as it finally does on the Sentence/Paradise Lost-flavoured Absÿnthe, well, everything just makes sense. I don’t know how it does – it just does!
Not the easiest listen in this month’s edition, then, but if you’ve an ear for the slightly more off-kilter (remember Finland’s Gandalf?) then you’ll find this really intriguing, I guarantee!
Mystery shrouds Glory Force, who hail from Palermo in Sicily (or somewhere in Germany, if you believe one of the apocryphal tales that seem to follow these lads about) and, despite apparently being extant since the eighties are only now releasing their first full-length offering in the shape of The Restoration of Erathia…
This is all well and good, I hear you muttering, but what about the music? Well, although the band promise Manowar, they tend to deliver Powerwolf, albeit a Powerwolf with pretensions towards Rhapsody of Fire. You can’t fault their ambition – massed choirs, Cathedral Organs, narrators that would like to be Orson Welles, you get the picture – and when they crank up the amps and get the double kick drums going, as they do on the rousing and thoroughly ludicrous Rivers of Glory, well… you can’t but help enjoying what they offer up!
‘Tim Peltkolto‘ doesn’t quite have the vocal oomph required to pull off tracks with the ambition of the Manowarish On Silver Wings, but he’s a trier, you have to give him that; and if he just falls short then his guitar playing bandmates Dom Spazzarini and Alessandro Rodolfe Peggio both do their best to take up the slack with some at times incendiary playing.
Still, can you really argue with a band that releases a Mead horn-brandishing anthem like King Gryphonheart (The Brave)? I think not. Just rein in your expectations a little, forgive the band their foibles and go along for the ride. You’ll have a ball!
Finally this month we head to Athens and the prog/shred stylings of Jonkal. I’m not a great fan of instrumental metal or shredders if truth be told, but there’s something about Jonkal’s playing that makes his new album This Fight Is My Own absolutely irresistible. Every track is a winner, and whilst his lead playing is clearly fabulous – like a cross between George Lynch and Michael Schenker with big lashings of Vinnie Moore thrown in to these ears – it’s the fact that he’s able to construct magnificent backing soundscapes to support the fleet-fingered stuff that makes this album so enjoyable. This man can shred, but he can write a riff and house it in a song too.
Opening song Remember and the title track come highly recommended, but this reviewer’s favourite track is the more modern, dare I say it poppy vibe of All The Roads Leads To, wherein our hero strips things back with pleasing results.
Like I say, if instrumental metal isn’t your thing you’d be forgiven for letting this album pass you by, but it’s definitely worth some of your time whatever your tastes, even just to hear the hair-raising early moments of The Beginnings…
So there you have it – the November 2020 Crusade is a wrap! I hope you enjoyed some if not all of the metal we brought to you this month – let us know if you think there’s a band (or bands) we should be featuring!
Hail and Kill