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Absolva’s story is a bit of a strange one, as while they are technically a new band whose debut 'Flames of justice' is today’s subject of debate, they are formed up from 2/3 of the line-up of hard grafters Fury UK, and play in largely similar traditional metal style. With Fury UK bassist Luke Appleton currently living the dream with Iced Earth (let’s see how long that lasts), it’s actually pretty respect-worthy of his 2 bandmates to stand down their established act for now and try something just a little different in his absence.
Though played in a similar vein to the slogging traditional style Fury UK have established over 10 years and quite a few CDs of their own, ‘Flames of justice’ feels a bit more ambitious and angled towards a more soaring, power metal sound.
Former tourmates Saxon seem to have rubbed off on guitarist/frontman Chris Appleton in some regard, and quite a few of the songs share the same bludgeoning modern power metal approach the Yorkshire veterans have been rattling out with ease over the last 10 years or so. The opening and closing tracks in particular are propelled into motion by the same sort of scuttling, urgent riff that have served Saxon so well on the likes of “Hammer of the Gods” (from ‘Call to arms’) and end up with similarly pleasing results.
The most notable difference between the styles of Absolva and Fury UK is that the songs on ‘Flames of justice’ have been written with 2 guitarists in mind, and as result it is laced heavily with NWOBHM-style harmonies and dueling solo sections. It goes without saying really, but for this style of metal it is definitely an improvement over the power trio approach and suits the slightly more epic method Absolva are taking down to the ground.
The benefit of the musicians’ experience is felt without a doubt, and ‘Flames of justice’ is quite the opposite of a patchy debut CD with too many ideas and not enough ruthlessness. Perfectly streamlined, it may hit the odd wobble along the way, but flows superbly from one end to the other, alternating between fast gallops and militant midtempo thumping.
Chris Appleton’s gutsy mid-range vocals are really the only thing that hold the CD back on occasion, as while he mostly suits the gritty style perfectly well, a few of the more reaching choruses do see him come up a little short. One way to forge a bigger distinction between the old and new band might have been to bring in a different singer with a broader range and allow Appleton to focus solely on shredding it up, but center stage is an understandably hard thing to let go of. It’s hardly the end of the world, but the croon he breaks out on the ballad “Only when it’s over” is just a little too FM radio, and the chorus to the otherwise excellent “Code red”, for example, is a bit of a let-down.
All said and done though, ‘Flames of justice’ is a proper rock-hard British metal debut of sorts, taking the best bits of an established sound with a few very welcome embellishments to ensure a quality listening experience.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)