The superbly-named Ram it Down Records is a label that hasn’t taken long to worm it’s way into my metal affections, and their latest release, from Finnish melodians Merging Flare, does nothing to tarnish the label’s burgeoning reputation as a repository of what Sentinel Daily Editor Scott Adams might term ‘the good stuff’.
Formed as long ago as 2001 (as Disease), Merging Flare are remarkably only now releasing their second album. This might be because guitarist and general leading light Kasperi Heikkinen has had a line running lending his not inconsiderable axe attack to the likes of Udo Dirkschneider, Gamma Ray, Delain and Beast in Black to name just a few over the years, which obviously makes time to return to Merging Flare a little tight. So it’s probably best to make the most of this album, as another one might not be along for a while!
Euro power metal is the general sphere of operations here, though the classy keyboard contributions of an (unnamed) keyboardist do lend a more pomp/prog air to proceedings which is most welcome. At times whoever’s tinkling the ivories sounds like a glorious combination of Asia’s Geoff Downs and Saga’s Larry Gowan, and their playing lifts the likes of The Abyss of Time to a whole other level. At their most prosaic – second track Alliance In Defiance, for instance – the band sound like the little brother of Primal Fear, but when they hit their stride properly your correspondent is struggling to come up with a name for someone making this kind of music more convincingly than Merging Flare in 2019.
Heikkinen’s playing is prominent throughout, of course, but he really gilds the lily on every track; clearly the man is something of a guitar God, but he restrains himself throughout to tastefully executed brilliance, resisting the temptation to overplay and simply augment every song with his talents as required. Mind’s Eye (Reaching Out) highlights this perfectly, and it’s also one of those tracks I mentioned where the band totally hits it’s stride.
Matias Palm deserves a mention, too, for supplying some superb vocals throughout the album. Like Heikkinen, Palm is all class, and, like his guitar-playing brother in arms, he only ever gives the song what is required, despite quite clearly having quite a vocal arsenal at his command. His control is superb, whether on out-and-out-metal or slightly more restrained material, and it’s a joy to listen to at every turn.
The proggy War Within is another highlight, as is the superb speed metal of Devastator, but really Revolt Regime has no low points at all, with even the bonus track – A Laura Branigan cover! – having plenty to recommend it. This type of metal has probably reached tipping point now, so it’s great to hear a band – even one that’s been around for a while – attacking it’s subject matter with gusto whilst still managing to deliver a finished product that’s choc full of points of difference and, consequently, interest. Great stuff!
Revolt Regime is out on June 14th.