Epiclore - Labyrinth alpha 3/5
2. Kingdom of ends
3. The mirage
4. A song in solitude
5. Labyrinth alpha
7. In the final hour
8. Vox dei
'Labyrinth alpha' is the full-length debut from Epiclore, a power metal band out of Finland, but to say this is a new band would be incorrect, as they actually formed way back in 2000 and already have a few demos under their belt, as well as an EP from 2005. I personally feel it's great when a band is able to grab experience through multiple recordings, as opposed to rushing the release of their first full-length. In this case, 'Labyrinth alpha' definitely doesn't have the feel of a rushed recording, and it's obvious Epiclore has spent years becoming who they are.
The band is fronted by Olli Hurskainen, who not only is the vocalist, he's also the songwriter, guitarist, and even provides some of the keyboard/piano parts. Regarding his overall performance, I think he succeeds in all areas, and his clear voice is typical of a power metal vocalist from Finland (probably most comparable to Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica), which should please fans of the style. The main keyboard player is Petri Pulli, and I should mention that this is one of those power metal CDs with a lot of keys, as it's lightly symphonic and even atmospheric at times. Bassist Ercci "Erska" Pietila and drummer Panu Hurskainen (who I'm assuming is the brother of Olli) round out this 4-member band.
For comparisons, it's surely no surprise that Epiclore belongs in the group that contains Sonata Arctica, Dreamtale, Cardiant, Stratovarius, Thunderstone, Nightscape, Supreme Majesty, Moonville, Twilightning (early), Destiny Calling, and many others. But while they're your typical power metal band from Finland, there is one thing that's stood out to me, and that's that their style is of the pleasant, melodic, and almost soothing type, as opposed to the aggressive and extremely heavy type. Olli's fairly soft voice and the backing vocals fit their music style for sure, and I must say that everything comes together on 'Labyrinth alpha'.
Although there are only 8 songs on the CD, they're decently long and the running-time is actually 50 minutes. In fact, the title track (track 5) is 11 minutes long and track 7 "In the final hour" is 9 minutes long, and luckily both don't feel that long, as they remain interesting, catchy and melodic throughout. I like all of the songs and there's a solid variety of tempo too - plenty of fast-paced songs, as well as some mid-paced, bouncy, galloping, and even slow songs. I do think track 3 "The mirage" is the best song, as it has a terrific chorus and is the most memorable, but track 4 "A song in solitude" is a pleasant slow song that needs to be mentioned. Also, it was interesting to learn that track 6 "Riverball" was written as the "theme song" for the band's local soccer team. "Vox dei" is the CD's closer and it features female vocals by Tuula Tolvanen (duet style with Olli), a "guest" present on this song only. I don't believe Tuula is part of a well-known band, but she certainly should be, as she has a really nice voice.
So what we end up with is a solid debut for power metal fans, and I have not one complaint about what 'Labyrinth alpha' offers. Even better songwriting will definitely take this band to a higher level however, and they also have to deal with the fact that this is already a crowded genre. Still, for me personally (who can never get enough power metal), this is an enjoyable CD and I'm curiuous to hear more from Epiclore in the future.
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