Gaia Epicus - Victory 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-30-07


1. New life
2. Iron curtain
3. The sign
4. Revenge is sweet
5. In memory
6. Awaken the monster
7. Rise of the empire
8. When darkness falls
9. Fortress of solitude
10. Through the fire
11. Victory

These melodic speedsters deliver a strong 3rd CD, not offering much in the way of surprises, but solidly executed and thoroughly enjoyable.
With cover art like Delacroix mutated into metal, the CD may not be subtle, but it is satisfing. The closest comparison I can make to this CD is the 2nd and 3rd CDs of Steel Attack, which is not at all a bad place to be. It's also a bit of an evolution from what was a bit more typically euro power metal sound (i.e., Helloween Keepers), and one of those positive comparisons are the copious amount of excellent, soaring, and melodic leads. The guitar work is great, offering both instrumental proficiency and the performance of a bunch of memorable melodies, while songs like "Rise of the empire" have some solos that hearken back to Helloween's best work, never a bad thing.

Despite the solid power metal influence, the tempos and moods of the CD get changed up quite a bit, from the full-out speedsters like "New life" and "Rise of the empire", to a bit more moderate pace and middle-eastern influence in "Iron curtain". "Revenge is sweet", which I'm guessing is a stab at some record companies or similar stuff, is both a bit more banal in subject matter and style, while "Awaken the monster" is a bit more savage in its slower snarl and menace dipping into a crunchier riff style. "Fortress of solitude" calls back a little Rage flavor from the 'Missing link' and 'Trapped' days.

As mentioned, the guitar work is really great, probably the high point of the CD, and is done justice by a sharp, clear production that melds the leads with the rapid fire drums to great effect. Vocalist (and guitarist) Thomas Christian Hansen writes all of the songs, and delivers the type of vocals that are typical from a dual duty performer, quite adequate and appropriate, but modest in their range. Those who are looking for a paint-peeling lung-burster might be a bit disappointed, but those who might tire of an overly sweet or screeching voice might enjoy this more, and the songs are written well for the attributes of his voice.

The CD definitely departs from the purest conventions and cliches of the power metal subgenre, without every straying from melodic metal in general, and those departures are sometimes to the CD's credit, and sometimes they take the CD down a notch, but it's definitely not an overly sweet happy-happy euro sound, which was more characteristic of their debut. However, it's hard to not enjoy the great instrumental work on the guitars that drive along every song, or to enjoy the overall metal punch this offers. Any who really enjoyed Steel Attack in their earlier days should probably not miss out on this CD.




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