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It's been five long years since the release of the epic power metal masterpiece known as "Defenders Of The Crown" and the winds of change have since stormed past the Human Fortress camp. I believe the band have lost a long standing guitarist as well as a bassist, but more importantly, the amazing singer from the first two Human Fortress albums, Jioti Parcharidis, has since departed from the band.
There are many reasonings and explanations being tossed around regarding why Jioti was forced to leave the band. I heard that he wanted to form a new band and parted from HF due to musical differences and also that he had some sort of throat infection that hampered his singer ability. I do know that he left on good terms with the band because I saw him in pictures with the other band members at their CD release party for this album.
Onto the album itself finally. Carsten Frank, the former Galloglass frontman, is the new singer for Human Fortress. His performance in Galloglass wasn’t bad and he sings pretty good when he wants to, as in the chorus for the album opener “Contrast”. So what’s the problem then? Two words: Metalcore vocals. Yes, you heard me right, metalcore vocals in what was once and still is an Epic power metal band. And it’s not like they’re just used sparingly either, they’re drenched all over this album in practically ever song.
There are moments on this album where the band rekindle the epic/medieval atmosphere of their first two albums, as in the aforementioned “Contrast”, “The Wizard”, “Falling leaves”, and the bonus track on the limited edition “Wrath”. The trouble is they get their trademark epic vibe going for them, then the metalcore vocals come in and just completely kill the atmosphere. Oddly enough, Carsten never really used metalcore vocals in Galloglass so who’s idea was it to integrate them into Human Fortress? The album would be much better if he just stuck to his singing style from his Galloglass days. Perhaps this new, more mainstream approach and pathetic attempt to appeal to the metalcore kids is another reason why Jioti has since left the band.
Despite all the criticism I’ve spewed forth against this album, it’s not really all THAT bad. The songs previously mentioned in the preceding paragraph are all descent Epic metal cuts that do hold a candle to band’s older material, musically speaking that is. “When Love and Hate Collide” and “Circle of Flames” are more straightforward songs, but are both relatively catchy power metal tunes. Also, my rating would be a good 10-15% higher if it weren’t for those darn metalcore vocals, so if you can stomach them, do the math for a more accurate score.
I guess my biggest problem with this album is that I just can’t get over the fact that Jioti Parcharidis is not singing for Human Fortress anymore. Carsten’s vocal style is completely different from Jioti’s, which makes HF sound like an entire new band on this album. Seriously, I would give an arm and a leg to hear Jioti sing “The Wizard” or “Falling Leaves”. Even if he does have a throat infection, Jioti singing at 50% of his capability would be much better than Carsten’s performance on here and would probably boost my rating all the way up to a high 80% or even a 90%. The good news is, Jioti is still friends with the rest of the band members, so there still may be a slight chance that he will return to the band sometime in the future if he gets healthy. One can only pray I guess...