Saturday, September 23, 2017

Metalite – Heroes In Time

Throughout the history of heavy metal, there have been a handful of bands that found names that perfectly suited their music. The most obvious example would be Metallica, simply for their quality and status as metal titans. However, Sweden’s Metalite is certainly another apt choice. Put simply, this band is metal “lite”, to the point where it is questionable if it is metal at all. Rather than the gloriously cheesy approach of Power Quest or Freedom Call, Metalite’s tendencies are far more pop-inspired. If you took away the semi-crunchy guitars, there would be almost no metal in their sound at all. Actual riffs are in short supply. Nearly every song is a savory sweet sing-along anthem that is overflowing with sugary melodies, delivered via twin guitars or the angelic vocals of lead singer Emma Bensing. There isn’t a lot of variety, with most songs having the same runtime and general sound.

These comments all sound like criticisms, but they really aren’t. They’re more of a warning for what you’re getting into with Metalite. Truthfully, the band is very adept at what they do. Even if the band isn’t rocking hard at every moment, they’re always building to a chorus that explodes with enthusiasm. Many tracks have huge keyboard melodies with driving rhythm guitars underneath before letting the singer do her thing. Her voice is most similar to any number of singers for similar pop metal bands. She certainly doesn’t have the range of even level of expression as Tarja or Floor from Nightwish, for example (ironically, it’s arguable that all of these bands can be traced back to Nightwish).

The very things that define Metalite are also part of the reason why they don’t reach their full potential. Make no mistake, tracks like “Afterlife” and “Nightmare” are some rocking tunes, but the band’s unwillingness to add any more metal elements to their sound holds them back. If each song had mind-blowingly technical solos that could compete with modern power metal bands, higher average speeds, and more riffs, they would capture the power metal audience. Instead, their choices leave them solely with the pop side of metal, but more importantly, these choices also make the band feel very safe and reserved. “Heroes In Time” lacks any elements of surprise, and once you’ve heard one song, you’ve heard them all. Ultimately, this means that while this is an enjoyable record, it is unlikely to be one that you’ll reach for time and time again. 

Be sure to check out and like Metalite on Facebook!

Highlights
"Afterlife"
"Nightmare"

Final Rating
3.5/5 or 70%.   

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Palantír – Lost Between Dimensions

The consistently awesome Stormspell Records is currently unleashing yet another onslaught of worthwhile releases. One album that stands out in this batch is “Lost Between Dimensions” from Sweden’s Palantír. This is largely because the label specializes in thrash or traditional heavy metal. Instead, Palantír is a power metal band in the vein of many of Europe’s most classic groups. Rather than being a straight Helloween-worship band, however, Palantír manages to be just a little bit different. While nothing they do is outside the realm of possibilities for this style, the band has a somewhat understated folk element to their melodies. The best comparison would be to fellow Swedes Falconer, who manage to have plenty of upbeat melodies.

Thematically, Palantír takes the fairly common approach of writing sci-fi inspired works. They manage to capture the other-worldly theme better than counterparts like Gamma Ray, for example, but their music isn’t overloaded with pointless sound effects to create atmosphere. They simply rely on keyboards in the background to complement the off-kilter melodies. The band’s singer takes a laid-back approach; he’s certainly very skilled but he’s rarely belting out insanely high notes. Falconer again is a good comparison, as Palantir’s singer has a similar approach to Mathias Blad. 

While the band’s style is certainly respectable, the album doesn’t hit all that hard. No doubt this is the type of music that is likely to improve with subsequent listens, but even after quite a few, “War of the Worlds” remains the only standout. This is largely because it most effectively combines the sci-fi themes with the actual musical melodies. Nevertheless, the remaining tracks don’t feel all that memorable. This style works for Falconer simply because of how unique they are, and because the songwriting is exceptional. Unfortunately for Palantír, perfectly executed instrumentation isn’t enough, and so while “Lost Between Dimensions” is good enough for the occasional play, it is by no means a standout in the power metal subgenre.  

Be sure to check out and like Palantír on Facebook!

Highlight
"War of the Worlds"

Final Rating
3.6/5 or 72%.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

Power Quest – Sixth Dimension

The first taste of newly revitalized UK band Power Quest came late last year with the inspired and energetic “Face The Raven” EP. That release was only meant as a warm-up for the eventual full-length: “Sixth Dimension”. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like Power Quest. Once again, Steve Williams and co. manage to sound happier and more upbeat than almost any band out there. Some might be turned off by the excessive cheesiness, but that is part of the appeal. The combination of cheery keyboard melodies and positive lyrics create a sound that few others can replicate successfully. And to Power Quest’s credit, they still deliver the riffs. “Lords of Tomorrow” has an awesome breakdown in the bridge with more traditional heavy metal riffing. The song is also deceptively quick, as its pre-choruses show the band unleashing some of their fastest tempos.

Most tracks replicate this sound, albeit some more successfully than others. The album is often at its best when it deviates slightly from Power Quest’s formula. “Face The Raven”, despite feeling a bit slower than on the EP (it has the same runtime, but feels less energetic), remains one of the more exciting tracks due to a paralyzing opening scream and crunchy riffing. Yet another highlight is the epic closer, “The Sixth Dimension”. The primary draw to this song is its triumphant chorus, which is dominated by new vocalist Ashely Edison. In fact, he rules all over this album. Few singers can pull off such a happy style of metal, but Edison does it with conviction by having tons of power in his voice, even if he often lacks grit.

For most, the positive atmosphere on this record might be too much. You certainly have to really not care what others think of your music taste to play this album in front of others, but even at their cheesiest, Power Quest should have something interesting to offer. A number of tracks unleash furious double bass underneath the soaring vocals. Even some of the “whoa-oh” sections, like the one in “Kings and Glory” are more in the vein of Iron Maiden than Freedom Call, for example. The lead guitar playing is also always excessively shreddy, and should appeal to most metal fans.

Sixth Dimension” is the perfect representation of Power Quest. If you liked the band before, this album will be yet another worthy purchase, but is unlikely to change the minds of any detractors. While it can be easy to criticize a band for doing nothing new or original, “Sixth Dimension” is unlikely to yield any such complaints given that it is the band’s first album in 6 years. There really isn’t anything more a Power Quest fan could ask for!

Be sure to check out and like Power Quest on Facebook!

Highlights
"Lords of Tomorrow"
"Face The Raven"
"Revolution Fighters"
"The Sixth Dimension"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%.