Thursday 25 April 2019

Reportage - Escape This World (2019)

Country: Russia
Style: Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 23 Apr 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website | YouTube

It seems odd to review a 38 minute EP right after a 28 minute full length album, but that's probably because this is an odd release. It features one showcase track, Burn the Bridges, three other new songs that were recorded with an orchestra, plus five of the nine on Prison of Ice, the band's debut album from last year, given the same treatment.

It's rather palatable stuff, power metal very much in the European style, led by a capable vocalist in Yury Sakhnov and the twin guitars of Vladimir Anikin and Andrey Schreider. The orchestra plays a decent supporting role, without ever taking over. Frankly, I often forgot that there was even an orchestra there at all.

I should emphasise that there's no Therion here. While band members appear to be involved in a symphonic Iron Maiden tribute show, Reportage aren't a symphonic band. This is more like a merger of older and newer German bands, plenty of Accept channeled through Helloween and Gamma Ray, but with almost inevitable British roots in Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Don't Run Away is quintessentially NWOBHM with a more modern guitar.

They're at their best when they're upbeat and up tempo, which might sound rather redundant for a power metal band, but I wasn't particularly fond of Complications, the one quieter song. I wouldn't call it a ballad, especially given that it opens a lot heavier than it ends, but it's a lot closer than anything else on offer and it's easily the weakest song for me anywhere on this EP. Prison of Ice is a little slower too and it has a prominent string section, but it kicks harder than Complications and makes more of an impact with its epic build, even if Sakhnov has to strain some.

Now, I haven't heard Prison of Ice, the band's 2018 album, so I don't know what these last five songs sounded like without orchestral backing, but I'm interested in finding out. On the basis of this EP alone, they play well in the company of newer tracks. Every one of them is a decent song, with confident solos and strong backing.

I think I prefer the newer material though, as it's more immediate but doesn't fade with repeat listens. Burn the Bridges starts out in the same vein but adds a heavier tone, like a merger of Metallica and Judas Priest. Escape This Word (which may or may not be a typo) and Do They Await go back to the Accept sound, with slower but heavier movements and capable support from the orchestra. Complications does the same until it slows down and gives up some of its power.

The more times I listen through, though, the more the orchestral tracks blur, new and old, as if they were all written at the same time and merely saw different release dates. I have to say that my favourite song here, as much as I dig Burn the Bridges, may be Ride the Stream, a Helloween-esque romp, followed by the newer material and then maybe Prison of Ice, which grows with each listen. There's little in it though and clearly I need to track down that earlier album. And let's see a new one soon!

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