This is the eighth studio album by Finnish power metal merchants Burning Point, though it's the first for two thirds of the band, because they've undergone quite a line-up change since 2016's The Blaze. I don't believe I've heard the band before, so I'm coming into a predominantly new line-up completely fresh, and they sound pretty good to me. I wonder if long term fans of Burning Point would agree with me or not. I simply don't know if this is typical or not.
They start out as a very up tempo power metal band. Everything is clean, including the vocals of Luca Sturniolo and the guitar tone of the two longer term members, Pete Ahonen and Pekka Kolivuori, the former of which has been the only founder member left for well over a decade now. Not everything is quite as up tempo as Blast in the Past, which really does kick things off with emphasis, but it certainly doesn't make a habit of slowing down too far and too often. Everything does remain clean though.
As with so many Finnish bands who play something other than folk metal, they don't particularly feel Finnish, playing their power metal with a central European sound. While Rules the Universe is often reminiscent of Gamma Ray, the most obvious influence is surely Blind Guardian, also a German band, of course. That's especially obvious on the album's first real standout, which is the title track, Sturniolo's vocals not a million miles away from Hansi Kürsch's in his higher register.
I should mention here that, while Sturniolo's voice isn't remotely unusual for European power metal, it's a strong one and it fits this material perfectly. I'm rather surprised to see that his credits up until now have been as a backing vocalist on a couple of 2013 albums by Mad Matter's Den and Timo Tolkki's Avalon. I expected to find that he'd led a few power metal bands in the past. Apparently not. Sure, he doesn't do anything new that hasn't been done already by a bunch of other singers within the genre, but he does it very well.
And, quite frankly, the same left handed compliment could be given to Burning Point as a band. There isn't anything in these dozen tracks that I haven't heard before from other bands, but it's done nicely across the board. It's not enough to say that nobody lets the side down. There are good riffs here and good melodies and good hooks and everyone in the band contributes to them. This is a tight band and I'd love to see them live to discover how this level of energy translates onto the stage.
What's more, this relatively traditional sound could easily have descended into filler, but that doesn't happen here. Even three quarters of the way into the album, with powerful openers Blast in the Past and Rules the Universe long past and mid-album highlights like Arsonist of the Soul and Hit the Night also in the rear view mirror, the band doesn't let up. Off the Radar and Fire with Fire are amongst my favourite songs here and I didn't hesitate after the excellent Eternal Life to run through the album all over again. Will I Rise with the Sun is hanging out in my brain too.
And I think that wraps this up. If you're aching for something new and innovative, this isn't it. If you're a European power metal fan but innovation is something you can live without, then you can do a heck of a lot worse than to acquire this. It may do what you expect, but it does it well. Now, I really ought to take a dive into their back catalogue to find out if they sounded like this all along and whether this is merely a solid reinvention of the band or just one in a number of strong albums.