Style: Epic Heavy Metal
Release Date: 24 Feb 2023
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I've been listening to this album for a week on and off, with a convention in the middle, and it just keeps getting better and better. It's epic heavy metal from Switzerland, which means that it's slow but heavy with clean vocals and it remains inventive throughout. The most obvious influences are traditional American heavy metal bands like Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, though they're slower than the former and less raucous than the latter. Instead, there's a pivotal emphasis that suggests that the entire album is underlined.
The Raving Light of Day kicks off with an old school Manowar flavour that's happily free of cheese. That's a very recognisable canter, a ride full of so much confidence that it's unnecessary to take it faster into an Iron Maiden gallop. It's an excellent opener, patiently heavy without the need to dip into doom and with a strong hook in the chorus from Uzzy Unchained that elevates everything. It's a statement and the only reason it doesn't stay high in my estimation is because it's followed by a still better song, Iron Plains.
This one has seeped into my soul. It's faster and denser and I love everything about it, from its riff to its power chords via a wonderfully clipped cymbal during a glorious instrumental stretch, but I'd have to say that it's the vocal structure that captured me most. I never can seem to get my brains around how the verses and chorus works. Either the chorus takes up most of the song, wandering in some complex geometric pattern that I can't see, or it's there in absentia, a sort of hollow echo that follows every mention of the title. Whatever it is, it works wonderfully.
Cowards Remain has the best riff on the album and it ups the tempo a little too, though it's Might that takes that the furthest, launching in hard and fast and with both feet firmly in power metal. All Wicked Schemes Unite opens in glorious fashion, with such a rich drum sound that I have to call out the producer, Yvo Petrzilek, for special merit. This is a superb production job. Just listen to the bass running through Power. Why aren't all heavy metal albums produced like this? I remember a time when Joey de Maio kept talking up Manowar's new drum kit in interviews as if it would make the difference between them and every other band. This one kind of does.
Really I need to call everyone out for special merit. Uzzy Unchained is a magnificent vocalist who's powerful throughout, delivering with relish that never becomes over-theatrical, but with another gear available when he wants to really turn it up, like on the epic closer, Babe Eternal. What's odd here is that every song sounds epic but not one makes it to even six minutes. This one's the slowest and most emphatic, in large part because of that searing vocal from Uzzy. However, this is a guitar album and Chris the Axe and new fish Seth Angel, who wasn't on their debut album, are a force of nature. They go to delicate and intricate and characterful, all of it well, but they utterly nail power chords. Every chord sounds like a new pillar in a temple and the album ends up like a city.
I've already praised the production on the bass and drums but the musicians actually playing them deserve credit too and they are Simon the Sorcerer and Dan Thundersteel respectively. Both shine the brightest, perhaps, on All Wicked Schemes Unite, the latter especially early and the latter late but both throughout. It's appropriate that both end the song together, just a hint of bass creeping past the final beat but it's another highlight song for everyone in the band.
And most of them are. There are eight songs here. I'd probably call five of them highlights and the other three aren't far behind. It would be a fool's game to try to rank them, but right now it's Iron Plains and All Wicked Schemes Unite for me, with Cowards Remain and Babe Eternal behind them, then The Raving Light of Day, and finally the title tracks, Might and Power, which are two separate songs here, and, somehow, Raikaszi at the bottom of the pile.
If Raikaszi is the worst song here, with its atmospheric intro, beautifully toned guitar, characterful bass, killer power chords and effortless hook, then it serves well to underline how impressive this album is. Everything I review at Apocalypse Later is recommended to some degree, but it ought to be safe to say that many of the bands I've reviewed this year would love to create even one song as good as Raikaszi. For that to seem like the also ran here is what guarantees a rare 9/10 for me.
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