Twilight Force: Heroes Of Mighty Magic (Nuclear Blast)
Twilight Force hail from Falun Sweden the same town as war crazed mad men Sabaton and if you think Sabaton are a little OTT then stop reading here as this isn't the band for you. Twilight Force's second record ramps up everything heard on the debut to the Nth degree, from the first moments this record is musical Marmite you'll either love it or loathe it.
Personally I love it but it is a bit immense in places with the massive layered orchestral/symphonic ingredients, the warp speed guitar playing, skyscraping vocals and general outrageousness of the record it may put even be too much for hardened power metal fans, still if you love the likes of Avantasia, Rhapsody, Aina and bands of that ilk that play concept heavy fantasy metal you will lap this up as like I said it seems to take everything done before to the next level.
Think Dragonforce and Avantasia writing songs with Hans Zimmer for a fantasy movie made by Disney and that only hints to the sound of this record. The band is made up of Borne on bass, Blackwald on keys, piano, cembalo and violin, De'Azsh on drums (the man must be a robot he drums so fast) Aerendir takes guitar along with Lynd who also has acoustics and lute to contend with while the band is rounded out by Chrileon's glass shattering vocals, he even give Fabio Leone a run for his money when he guests.
Battle Of Arcane Might kicks off at lightning speed with the solo section leading into a orchestral section in quick succession, there is no stopping from there the pace stays at almost lightspeed through Powerwind when Guardian Of The Seas merges the bands Medieval lyricism with backing choirs and more dragons than Alestorm offshoot Gloryhammer, in fact Gloryhammer or Hammerfall on speed would be another good way to describe this band.
Flight Of the Sapphire Dragon is one of the album's most cinematic songs making this writer think of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's classical metal fusion. Over the course of the 12 tracks on this record only really Epilogue gives any respite as it is purely a spoken word song but the rest of the songs are gloriously mad symphonic power metal full of folk elements and Hollywood calibre orchestration, the bouncy Riders Of The Dawn is sure to be a live favourite as is the floaty, cheesy Rise Of Hero which could be Eurovision track it's so stupendously silly while Keepers Of The Fate has a darker edge to the sound.
With most of the songs clocking in at around five minutes, the most epic songs are the title track which is finale of the album and has Sabaton's Joacim guesting on vocals and the sublime and ridiculous There And Back Again which not only takes it's name from Tolkien but has all the drama of the great writer's work, these two songs are worth the price of the record alone. It's overblown, it's absurd, it's at points overwhelming but more than that this record is brilliant, like a B-movie you keep coming back to again and again, it seems like a guilty pleasure but you derive so much pleasure from it that there is no guilt at all. Heroes Of Mighty Magic is incredible, pure joy in audio form. 10/10
DGM: The Passage (Frontiers)
DGM are an Italian progressive metal band, doing a bit of research I see that they have been around since 1994 and since then they have gone through numerous lineup changes, to the point that the current incarnation has no original members but still they continue to release melodic progressive metal in style of Circus Maximus and Symphony X.
The Passage is their ninth release and it opens with two of the longest tracks on the record meaning that at 15 minutes The Secret starts the record as you'd expect from a progressive band, with twists and turns throughout every instrument getting a workout especially the bass and drums that are key to the time signature changes. With technical proficiency throughout the album DGM show how they have plenty of experience in the prog scene the guitars and keys interact very well the keys especially give the band their emotive power.
As I've said DGM have similarities to Symphony X and also to bands such as Evergrey so much so that both Michael Romeo and Tom S Englund appear on this record, the vocals too are in the vein of Russell Allen with s gritty power to them that add the melodic touch to the songs, it's these elements that stop the band being too complicated and makes the record much easier to digest.
There's metal, rock and even some AOR on this record and the Italian band follow the great tradition of American progressive metal bands with a sturdy heavy rock base layer topped with flourishes of excellence and a keen ear for a huge hook. The Passage is a must buy for fans of Symphony X, Dream Theater and Shadow Gallery! 8/10
King Company: One For The Road (Frontiers)
As the title track starts you'd be forgiven for thinking you were listening to Whitesnake or MkIII Deep Purple and the huge slabs of organ, speedy rock guitars and bluesy vocals certainly give that impression but it's only when you look deeper you see that King Company are a Finnish act made up of members of Thunderstone, Warmen and Kiuas and they have taken a more hard rock based sound much like the primarily German act Voodoo Circle.
The band two main members are ex-Thunderstone drummer Mirka "Leka" Rantanen who has recruited Antti Wirman from Warmen on guitar and the voice of Thunderstone Pasi Rantanen on vocals with Jari Pailamo and Time Schleifer on keys and bass respectively. It's a long way away from the members day jobs in the power metal scene yes there are still the superior guitar and keyboard solos but they are more of the Lord and Blackmore than the bands day jobs.
What I did notice with this record is that Pasi's vocals are more suited to this type of music his rasp fits with the hard rock template as he delivers chest beating bravado on Coming Back To Life, AOR crooning on Wings Of Love and full on heartbreak on Cast Away. One For The Road is meat and potatoes hard rock based on the 80's and 90's traditions of Rainbow, Mr Big and Europe, it's a summer soundtrack fit for BBQ's and Beers, if you've never lost your highlights and penchant for leather trousers then One For The Road will be your soundtrack in those cold winter months. 7/10