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Cookie-cutter power metal with a few surprises - 64%

0kill, February 28th, 2009

“We are the Knights chosen by fate, we are the warriors who fight for life..."

Dwarfed by the legacy of their countrymen Rhapsody, Kaledon is one of those bands that gets “canceled out” because there are others who do the same thing, only better. Kaledon’s fate is only partially fair, however. Yes, Kaledon and Rhapsody play the same sword-wielding, cheddar-drenched, vaguely homoerotic brand of symphonic power metal. You could pretty much figure that one out as soon as you read the ruthlessly unoriginal album title. However, in all fairness to Kaledon (or Rhapsody, I’m really not sure which), there are quite a few key differences.

The first and most obvious difference is the crappy production. I’m a guy who can honestly enjoy a great deal of underground black metal, but when a BM release has poor production, it simply adds to the atmosphere. When a symphonic power metal band like Kaledon releases a full-length with a very demo-esque production ethic, it really detracts from the listening experience. No, it’s not even close to the worst production I’ve ever heard, but people expecting Symphony of Enchanted Lands 2.0 might be turned off for this reason alone (also, there are no orchestras on this album, save the intro for God Says Yes that probably was originally recorded for something else).

The second thing that separates Kaledon from your typical symphonic power metal band is the surprising amount of Stratovarius worship, which is a good thing, of course. It’s not as obvious on this release as it was on their third release, but it is there. The most blatant display of said worship is on the track In Search of Kaledon (which, consequently, is the album’s standout track), which begins with a fast-paced speed metal riff put through a power metal filter.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only moment on the album that really makes you want to turn up the volume and throw the horns. The rest of the album alternates between fast and mid-paced, with the later being better, but neither being memorable. As to be expected from a band with a dragon and a castle on the album cover, quite a few cringe-inducing moments rear their ugly heads. The vocals are a particular low point, as the lead singer sounds like Kermit the Frog with an Italian accent, and the ghetto layering of the vocals only makes it worse. It’s really too bad that it took the band four albums to figure out that they should ditch this guy. The obligatory ballad on this album is simultaneously a high and a low point – it sucks (duh), but at least they had the common decency to make it less than three minutes.

The technicality of the musicians on this album is so-so. The keyboard player and the drummer are both seem to be above average musicians, but the guitar player rarely solos, even in the songs that should obviously have one. When he does solo, it’s more along the lines of a cute six-note pattern than a take-no-prisoners shredding assault (the way God meant for heavy metal to be played). This flaw will prove to bedevil Kaledon for the rest of their career. Seriously, they should know better. A power metal album without guitar solos is like a day without sunshine.

If you’re a fan of power metal in general, you might get some enjoyment from this album. As of when this review is posted it is still available for free download on the band’s website. I recommend keeping the faster paced songs in your library, such as God Says Yes, In Search of Kaledon, Thunder in the Sky, and Hero of the Land. Ditch the rest and check out their third, fourth, and fifth albums, which were much better than this one.

“Fighting the evil, riding the sky, the glory of victory is in the steel..."

Surprisingly enjoyable for what it is - 80%

Aeturnus65, February 4th, 2006

If there ever was an Italian power metal disc to skip based on all the intangibles – cover art, song names, lyrics, label, and so on – this is probably it. Aside from the piss-poor cover art that’s about as epic-looking as a child’s coloring book, there’s a laundry list of things that would steer all but the most hardcore of fans away from this thing provided it weren’t about $2 to purchase. Which is precisely how I happened upon the album, as a sort of cheapie eBay throw-in with a few other CDs. As it turns out, Ch. I is surprisingly a decent slab of power metal. Sure, it’s got some problems, but you could do a lot worse.

No surprises concerning the style of music Kaledon play, though perhaps things are a little faster than some of the other Italian staples. The first thing you’ll notice once you get to the real tracks (after the keyboard intro) is vocalist Claudio Conti. From a technical standpoint he’s terrible, especially when he decides to go Halford-style on us. His accent is quite thick, and staying in key the whole time is not one of his strong points. That being said, I enjoy him. He doesn’t sound at all like the technically skilled yet generic singers fronting bands like Highlord, meaning he’s slightly unique amongst a sea of clones. Just be prepared to have to work to acquire a taste for his vocals.

Beyond Conti you’ve got your standard Italian power metal, somewhat mixed with a dose of speed (almost Iced Earth-like at times with the machine gun palm muted riffing), so if you like your power metal speedy and more filling than a light-hearted Rhapsody affair, Kaledon will fit the bill. Drummer David Folchitto of Stormlord gets a good workout here as well, with lots of double bass and fills. I remember reading a while back that Kaledon was going to have Jorg Michael guest-drum for their third album and thinking that, as good as Michael is, there doesn’t seem to be much sense in it, as the drums aren’t among the problems here. Keyboards are used about as expected, maybe even slightly less overt, as there aren’t many sections that just flood you with keyboards, always a good thing in my book.

I’ve got to commend Kaledon for their compact songwriting, as only one song on here is over six minutes in length, that being the closer. Otherwise things are short and to the point, something helped by the fact that a lot of these songs, as mentioned, are very speedy. The production is actually quite good for an Italian power metal debut. Thankfully they didn’t head to New Sin Studios like just about every other band from Italy, so they don’t sound exactly like thirty other bands, instead coming up with a production that would have sounded good on, say, the first couple Iced Earth albums – raw but thick guitars with drums that, while a bit hollow-sounding, are still quite impressive.

I guess here is where I insert the standard line about Kaledon not winning over any non-power metal fans. Those of you who enjoy this sort of thing – and you certainly know who you are – should like Kaledon. For everyone else, don’t even bother, as you’re simply not going to like it. Thus, non-power metal fans can subtract about 50 points from my score. Recommended to genre fans, as are all Kaledon albums. Nothing mind-blowing for sure, but Kaledon are good at what they do.