Orion's Reign - Nuclear winter 3.5/5
1. Admidst the battle
2. Nuclear winter
3. Cruor ritus
4. Darkness comes
5. A way out
6. Steel horizons
9. Beyond eternity 1 - The parting
10. Beyond eternity 2 - The slaughter
11. Beyond eternity 3 - The vision
More and more bands are doing this sort of thing in the current climate, but Greek debutants Orion’s Reign are still due a pat on the back for the gamble of giving away ‘Nuclear winter’, artwork and all, free of charge in MP3 format (currently on their website). Effectively they have rendered this review and others like it redundant, as the best thing you can do is go off to their website and find out for yourself exactly what it sounds like. But since I’ll never get away with wrapping things up there, I guess I’d better give a description of the music anyway.
Spending most of their formative years as an instrumental band due to an inability to find a decent singer before being joined by Giannis Kompatsiaris in 2005, Orion’s Reign have probably been aided to some extent by this disadvantage by having to work harder on their songwriting to make up the ground, and as a result have produced a debut that is quite rich in variance and imagination.
There is plenty of exhilarating power metal gallop on songs such as the opening “Amidst the battle” and “A way out”, which features a startling guitar solo from Greek shred icon Theodore Ziras. The band’s own lead guitarist Michael Batistatos is also quite an excellent musician, and having more or less served as the band’s frontman in the early days has come up with many well-developed solos that go well beyond the generic flurries many bands robotically adhere to. His performance on the speedy holdover instrumental “Steel horizons” is a real standout success, his sweeping arpeggios reminiscent of an in-form Luca Turilli.
The performance of Kyriakos Gazouleas is a model of how keyboards should be handled on this sort of release. Waiting patiently in the background for the most part, adding subtle extra layers to the music without getting in the way, he also gets a couple of well-executed moments at centre stage. The interludes “Cruor ritus” and the medieval scene-setter “Medfeast” are to be honest a little throwaway considering how well-played they are, and would have served better being worked into full songs, but he really comes to the fore on “The parting”. The first act of the closing trilogy “Beyond eternity”, Gazouleas shines as he provides a purely symphonic backdrop for Kompatsiaris’ vocals, and builds up a powerful atmosphere to prelude the following 2 chapters.
Despite finally having a settled vocalist, and one of some talent at that, it seems they have been keen to try experimenting with a few different styles after so long without any focal point. On the title track, only 2nd in the tracklist, Kompatsiaris is joined by a pair of guests of completely contrasting styles to form a 3-pronged attack that works a lot better than it probably should. Someone calling himself Darkface provides some pretty excellent growled vocals and actually upstages the main singer by the song’s conclusion, while some lilting female vocals add extra texture without causing any unnecessary clutter.
While it’s not exactly an earth-shattering debut, ‘Nuclear winter’ is certainly a fine example of European power metal that stays in all the safe zones but manages to still sound fairly original due to the variety of the songs and the handful of unexpected twists that crop up along the way. Orion’s Reign probably won’t be able to keep giving away recordings of this quality free of charge, so this may be a make-or-break move from them. With the option to donate some loose change to the band available, the MP3s cost however much you think they are worth, so dedicated power metal fans have little excuse not to at least give this a go.
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