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I had been looking for this band for quite some time (read: years) and I had to download it because I hadn’t been able to get it. When I listened to it at the very beginning I was a little disappointed. Perhaps because I had been listening to Dream Evil, Metallium which are of course heavier by all means I felt this one too light and didn’t hit me at first.
Thankfully, during the course of these past weeks I re-visited it quite frequently. I was so idiot! I disregarded it because it was not heavy enough but then again, since I consider myself a good music listener I had to punch myself for being rush in judging an album. When I re-read ‘epic-medieval melodic metal’ then like a lightning it struck me.
This album goes very much like Hammerfall ‘Glory to the brave’ if I dare to say. The other guys beautifully appointed the fact that they do not go as symphonic as Rhapsody or Dark Moor and it can’t be said more right. The ‘orchestral’ arrangements are very light and actually the guitars as well. The main difference with Hammerfall is that they are more guitar driven whereas Human Fortress is more focused on atmosphere and melody. Certainly ‘atmosphere’ is an overrated term lately but in this case they try and success at transmitting this medieval vibe.
You might be thinking that I am pushing the comparison too far but the fact is that the bands share similarities. The speed is another aspect. Hammerfall might have some faster tracks but the mid tempo, the riffing style is very much similar but less prominent on Human Fortress. The vocals are similar to Joacim Cans as well: very melodic and very emotional. Joacim has a higher pitch and Joti here focuses more on melody and epic vibe more than metallic style.
Ok, perhaps this will give you an idea how the band sounds a little bit. In regards to the songs we have mostly mid tempo tracks, fast tracks (although not as fast as Blind Guardian or Gamma Ray) and very emotional ballads. One more interesting aspect is that they interlude the fast tracks with really calm passages. I find it really hard to get power metal elements here. Power metal is fast by nature and sung in the higher registers (almost tenor-esque) and this guy is clearly not that kind of singer. The music does not rely on speed either so I disagree on that department.
The keyboards, although the guitars are not so powerful, do not overwhelm the entire sound. That is actually very interesting because if you think of today’s Helloween which rely so much on keyboards for my taste, this band does not over sugar the songs. Some songs are in fact keyboard driven but the most metal songs do not get overpowered by the keyboards.
‘In the dragons’ lair begins in typical Hammerfall fashion. It is fast, powerful, and melodic as hell and an awesome track to start. It basically gives you an idea what the album is all about. If you listen carefully you will barely notice the keyboard which is basically the way this is supposed to be done.
‘Under black age toil’ is slower and vocal driven. The tone used here is a little raspier during the verses but the background vocals in the chorus are a standout. The guitar riff is infectious and vicious. This is a great track with great vocals and an awesome end. The title track, for a change is very much Stratovarius fashion. Double bass drums but mid tempo with cool keyboard, Gregorian chants at the beginning and spoken parts. Surprisingly, and running only at 6min. provides lots of twists, calm passages and en epic atmosphere like few bands I have listened achieving.
‘Divine Astronomy’ is another double bass fast track. In this case I am not too bonded to the vocals; especially in the chorus which I think are a little too high for the singer but even so its catchiness is worth mentioning. ‘Forgive & forget’ is basically the mandatory ballad is a unique emotional cut with only vocals and keyboards. The song could be boring at some points but then you have to focus on the emotional vibe it transmits to appreciate it.
Just in case you are wondering about the riffs in particular they are NOT complex or heavy at all. They are really light, simple and effective for the recording’s purpose. After track 4 basically you will listen to the same thing over and over which somewhat drags the album a little. Track 6 is just an instrumental with classic guitars yet effective thou I do not see the purpose since every song has this kind of interludes.
As for the last track it is a mid tempo track and I would say the heaviest of the album. The vocals are done in a creepier way so to speak. The riffs are rather simpler than the first tracks. I’d say being the last one is not catchy at all, very epic and yet it lacks, for me, some punch or perhaps speed that would be appreciated to end this album. The final guitar rhythm section at mark 5:30min is what makes the song enjoyable although it is really simple but the melody is very effective.
By the way, if you wonder who Michael Bormann is, he was the awesome singer from the band Jaded Heart, and so far I firmly believe the BEST hard rock singer of all time.
In the end this is a solid effort yet not heavy at all. This is the perfect way to play and listen to medieval epic metal but yet it has its flaws but as for a light heavy metal album it is a nice and enjoyable experience.