CD Review: “Reign Of Gold” by Human Fortress

German power metal outfit Human Fortress return with its sixth release Reign Of Gold. “Thunder” is hampered by thin production and is somewhat generic. Things improve on the title track with its driving rhythm compliments of drummer Apostolos Zaios. “Lucifer’s Waltz” is a diabolical number that would incite an unholy dance at a black mass. The metallic bombast is subdued by ominous strings and an unholy choir that creates an unnerving atmosphere for the track’s duration. “Bullet Of Betrayal” is a melodic track with a strong folk influence. The combination of guitar harmonies and lush keyboards provide for a serene musical landscape. “Shine of Light” falls a bit flat with its schmaltzy piano intro and Gus Monsanto’s pastiche vocals. Power metal often falls victim to its own conventions and it is apparent on this track. Things get heavier on “The Blacksmith” with its sharp guitar riffs and double bass drumming and “Martial Valor” which is a mid-tempo rocker with a heart tugging woodwind solo during the track’s midsection. Initial single “Legion Of The Damned” is a fast paced ride through a dark forest with its punk drums and Iron Maidenesque guitar parts. Album closer “Victory” is a galloping rocker with an overarching string arrangement that accentuates the emotional thrill of victory.

Reign Of Gold is a mixed bag as it is interesting at times and generic at other times. This lack of consistency mars the experience as Human Fortress can play some serious power metal. However, Reign lacks the heaviness and depth found on other power and symphonic metal records. Tracks like “Martial Valor,” “Lucifer’s Waltz,” and “Victory” are heavy with classical elements that heighten the experience. Unfortunately other tracks lack the drive of the aforementioned songs.

Human Fortress has carved a niche in the power metal sub-genre since its formation 20 years ago. However, Reign Of Gold is not a breakout record that would catapult the band to the upper echelons of power metal. There are some solid songs, but not enough to recommend the record to folks. Fans of the band will probably pick it up. However power metal fans may be a little disappointed. Sadly, Reign Of Gold takes the bronze.

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CD Review: “The Sacrament Of Sin” by Powerwolf

German gothic power metal quintet Powerwolf offers its seventh release titled The Sacrament Of Sin. The album is a dark, yet accessible as it blends gothic, power metal and symphonic metal to strong effect. Album opener “Fire & Forgive” is a galloping number with a bombastic chorus and shredding guitar lead. “Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend” is a straight forward rocker that will appease gothic girls the world over. The saccharine nature of the song borders on comedy, but does not take away from the album. Things take a dour turn on “Killers With The Cross” which sounds inspired by 1960s Hammer vampire films. The stomping drums are instep with the dynamic riffs by guitarists Matthew and Charles Greywolf. This is not a generic track as there are several interweaving leads during the song’s midsection. “Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone” is a sorrowful ballad with lush piano and powerful vocals by front man Atilla Dorn. The Greywolf Brothers again offer stellar guitar leads that underline the track’s melancholy tone. “Nightside of Siberia” fierce riffing recalls viking metal stalwarts Amon Amarth. However, this is not a blatant ripoff, but a slight homage. The baroque guitar work and pounding bass drums make this one of the standout tracks on Sacrament.

The Sacrament of Sin is an accessible metal record with an extreme edge. Powerwolf adopts the epic bombast of power metal sans the pretentiousness of the aforementioned genre. No song on this album even approaches the 5 minute mark nor are there elongated guitar leads or drum solos. The musicianship is strong and the record is rife with shout-along choruses. Producer Jens Bogren does a great job of capturing the Greywolf Brother’s guitar chops and Dorn’s vocals.

In numerology, the number seven means completion. Well, here is hoping Powerwolf do not hang it up anytime soon. The Sacrament Of Sin is a strong record that should satisfy fans of power and symphonic metal. This sacrament ensues headbanging.

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