A couple of years back, when Swedes Metalite released their then new album, Biomechanicals, I copped a fair bit of flak for declaring their enthusiastic take on ‘trance metal’ to be the future of heavy metal going forward. People laughed at me and pointed at me in the street, but there you go. People who are ahead of the game are often derided by the proles, thought of as mad or, even worst, fans of dance music. Further to my claims about the future of heavy metal as we press deep into the twenty first century I declared that Metalite would attain world domination by 2025. Two years later, A Virtual World seems them make the first steps towards realising my vision…
On first listen to AVW, it seemed as if I may have been a bit hasty. There are good, even great, songs on the album, make no bones about that; And if nothing meets the gargantuan standard set by tracks like Breakaway and Apocalypse then at least Beyond The Horizon and The Vampire Song keep the pot bubbling along nicely…
The trouble is, repeated listens to the album don’t really change the listener’s opinion of the record. Other songs – Artificial Intelligence, especially, emerge as fit to join the band’s all-time great pantheon, but nothing blows your socks off, virtual or otherwise. And on tracks like Peacekeepers the band seem happy to accept a lowest common denominator sort of pop metal when we know they are capable of so, so much more.
The trance element has been ramped up significantly – keyboard parps and belches punctuate almost all of the tracks, rather than announce them on a blaring fanfare of electronica – and whilst this needn’t be a bad thing, to maintain equilibrium the power of the guitars should also have been ratcheted up, and too often this isn’t the case. At least too often for an old rocker like me.
Once again Erica Ohlsson shines through on the the big ballad Alone, and interestingly it’s on the more old fashioned material like this and Beyond The Horizon (and the straight up metal anthem Running) where the band strike the biggest paydirt. Metalite have quickly become the Kings (and Queens) of the Euro power ballad, and Alone here stands out as the one truly World-class track on the album.
So, maybe it’s not going to be all over by 2025. I stand by my enthusiasm for this band, but maybe they’ve elected to tread a little too much water on A Virtual World. Maybe next time.
A Virtual World releases on March 26th.