ASKA - Absolute power 4.5/5

Reviewed: 1-25-08





Tracklist:

1. Longships
2. Legion
3. Her ghost: remains
4. Until death do us part
5. Vowbreaker
6. Message from God
7. Martyrer
8. Freedom
9. Invasion
10. Warrior poets


The 5th CD from this Texas metal powerhouse is 7 years removed from their last CD 'Avenger', which was by far their best work at that time, with a new CD which is fully worthy of that promising legacy. This is a band that does not produce a style of power metal designed to tick off bullet points paying tribute to classic metal, nor to aspire to some more current notion of power metal sensibility. Instead, what they succeed in doing is capturing the FEEL, the immediate engagement, of the classic Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Manowar, and Saxon in their songs. The closest comparison lately is the more recent Iron Maiden CDs (although this is far, far more succinct), when I listen to those and think, “Why don’t more of the great metal bands today, in the style I love, instantly evoke this connection with the music that makes it soooo easy to listen to.”

So, don’t expect an overly pious homage to metal past, nor a Dragonforce display of extreme histrionics, just great metal music that captures the spirit of 80s metal with an enthralling fresh feel.

The CD opens expectantly with “Longships”, an epic track that unexpectedly starts dealing with modern woe and angst, and (like Blind Guardian’s 'Imaginations from the other side' does with fantasy images) pines for an idealized past of majesty and simple honor against the grey complexities of pain in a modern world. The music introduces to what you’ll feel on the CD; George Call’s unique vocals that don’t quite ape any of the metal classic singers, but find a strong, unique middle ground between, and don’t show any ill effects of some throat surgery that contributed to the long time between CDs. While his vocals may not sound exactly like Bruce Dickinson, they also capture some of the same enthralling level of passion that Bruce still is pulling out on the recent Iron Maiden CDs.

“Legion” kicks in with a high-powered dose of Rome-centric historical lyrics, which, along with “Freedom” provide the most detailed lyrics on the CD, where a lot of the rest shoots for emotional imagery. There are more songs on here about emotional aspects of “relationships” than we expect on the typical metal CD, especially after the more fantasy aimed 'Avenger', but they still work well with the other lyrics, with a sense of maturity and a different approach each time they come up.

Keith Knight’s bass, both dynamic and nicely present in the mix, like Iron Maiden, Overkill, and Manowar, contributes greatly to the moving energetic “call” of the music, while the guitar work from Daryl Norton and George Call serves up a sublime platter of melodic dual leads and riffs that will delight people who’s soul surges for 'Defender of the faith', 'Powerslave', or 'Power and the glory'. Jason Sweatt provides a strong backdrop with the drums behind all of the tracks. It all comes together without extraneous or overly indulgent displays, while still letting the band display their chops, like the massive ending to “Message from God”

As an attorney, I must at least disclose my bias in voir dire that singer and guitarist George Call has long been a metal pen pal of mine, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling in my heart this is an awesome CD that will truly call to the heart of those who love classic heavy metal in that purest form.

On 'Absolute power', you’re not going to hear a U.S. band trying to outspeed Dragonforce, nor are you going to hear someone trying to carve out dark, technical U.S. metal like New Eden, Destiny’s End or Helstar. What you will hear is something that at its core appeals to that most basic passion you first heard off of a 80s metal classic.



CRAIG




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