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I was not the huge fan of Human Fortress' last album that some people were. It has grown on me over time, and I think my 3.5 rating is a bit harsh in retrospect. I'd give it a 4 now, but I just don't love it like some people do (my wife for example). But still, I was expecting much better from the next Human Fortress album than this.
The loss of former vocalist Jioti Parcharidis is keenly felt, as he was undoubtedly the best thing about the band in the first place. Replacement Carsten Frank of Gallowglass is a perfectly good singer, even if he doesn't have Jioti's impressive range. It would be easy to say Frank is the problem here, and he's certainly part of it, but really it's the songwriting that has taken a big nose-dive. Human Fortress have pretty much abandoned their old Power Metal sound for a horrible 'modern' approach that flirts with nu-metal and metalcore in equal amounts. You heard me, and I only wish I was kidding.
Maybe 25% of this album consists of Power Metal-styled guitars and real singing, producing some decent melodies, especially on the opener "Contrast". The rest of the album is filled with jangly, groove-oriented nu-metal bashing and simplistic rhythms. Even when a song starts out promising, as "The Wizard" does, it is almost immediately ruined by awful guitar grooves and the worst vocals you can imagine. Make no mistake, when Frank sings, he sounds good, but most of the time he doesn't sing, rather choosing to yap awful metalcore-styled croaks all over this album.
The combination of weak Power Metal melodies with really terrible groove-metal chunking and hideous yapping vocals isn't just ill-conceived, it is actually painful. The flashes of their old style that HF show here and there just serves to make the rest of it sound worse, as you keep thinking it's going to get better, and then it goes right down the toilet again. Listen to the hideous Pantera-esque stomping of "The Raven" and try to keep your lunch down.
Rarely have I seen a band go wronger than this, and maybe only Nocturnal Rites and Elvenking have whored themselves out this badly trying to sell albums. Not only does this sound like a completely different band than the last album, but it sucks deep and hard. All you Human Fortress fans are going to listen to this anyway, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com