Last Alliance (The) - Out of the ashes 3.5/5

Reviewed: 2-1-12





Tracklist:

1. Fear ‘n bullets
2. Keeper of Asgard
3. Heaven’s war
4. King of thieves
5. March of darkness
6. The grey one
7. Out of the ashes
8. Necropolis
9. The dawn
10. The sorcerer’s vision
11. The name of vengeance


Not too many young U.S. bands dare to tackle the decidedly unfashionable genre of European-styled power metal these days, so those that do earn a hearty tip of the cap from me right out of the gate. The Last Alliance, from Queens, New York, are such a band, sounding something like a mixture of mid-period Blind Guardian and Iced Earth (albeit with other influences running the gamut from melodic metal to extreme sounds). Style-wise, they’re in the same neighborhood as the awesome Seven Kingdoms, albeit a bit less refined, less speedy, and with male lead vocals. In 2011, The Last Alliance self-released this ambitious debut CD, entitled ‘Out of the ashes' featuring 11 original cuts spanning a sprawling 73 minutes.

While not perfect, ‘Out of the ashes' is very convincing in many respects. The Last Alliance understand the power of a well-placed hook, a memorable refrain, and a killer riff, and they deliver in all of these categories time and again. The playing is accomplished and complements the material well, no mean feat considering that no fewer than 8 of songs exceed 6 minutes in length. Guitarist/lead vocalist John Ryan bellows out the lyrics with plenty of passion and enough melody, despite his overall slightly gruff delivery. Tracks like “Heaven’s war” the ultra-catchy “March of darkness” (replete with “wooahhhh” sing-a-long at the end), “Fear ‘n bullets”, the ripping title track, and the nearly 9-minute closer “The name of vengeance” are simply massive, memorable metal songs done right.

That said, I do have some constructive thoughts for ways that The Last Alliance can sharpen and strengthen the attack on their forthcoming sophomore CD. A fundamental truth that eludes many newcomer bands these days is that more is not always better. Precious few acts are capable of holding a listener’s attention for 73 minutes in one sitting, or of delivering a consistently strong CD of that duration. ‘Out of the ashes’ would have been more effective had several songs (“King of thieves” comes to mind) been pruned or eliminated altogether from the running order. A related comment is that not every song needs to be an extended epic. This CD kicks off with “Fear ‘n bullets”, a magnificent 4:34 scorcher, yet nothing else is south of 5 minutes. It’s okay to pare away the accoutrements sometimes and get straight to the heart of the matter, overblown Steve Harris tendencies be damned. Also, some of the quirks in the arrangements (infrequent blastbeats and occasionally overbearing keyboards) are distracting and should be stripped away. Finally, the sonics of this CD leave a bit to be desired, sounding more like a demo than a polished final recording. This kind of grand epic music needs a cleaner, slicker, brighter production in order to shine.

Make no mistake: The Last Alliance are a skilled, talented band, and they’re on the right path. I’d love to see them work with a good producer on their 2nd CD, someone who can help them focus and hone their sound, tighten up the writing, and tinker with the arrangements to accentuate the positive while deleting the extraneous. For now, though, I am more than pleased with ‘Out of the ashes’ and am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see The Last Alliance grace the Warriors of Metal Fest stage near Columbus, Ohio this June.



KIT




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