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I like ridiculous things, this isn't a secret. I adore the Jackass movies for the sheer absurdist spectacle of them, I've read the entire Achewood archive more often than I'd care to admit, and I'm a giant fan of Dragonforce's Sonic Firestorm and Inhuman Rampage. I like completely surreal and ridiculous shit (with some exceptions, Tim and Eric can fuck right off), and so with that in mind I'd like to introduce you to Swedish power metallers, Lancer. Actually, no, I just want to introduce you to the cover art of their self titled full length. If you gave a third grader mushrooms and asked him "What is the coolest thing?", he'd probably yell some nonsense like "THE OSTRICH FROM JOUST! BUT HE CAN CONTROL THE OCEANS! AND HE HAS MAGIC FEET! AND LASERBEAMS SHOOTING OUT OF HIS EYES!"
Lancer is that third grader and I'm so happy for that. The look of joy on my face upon first seeing that had to be something special. It's so big and stupid, I love it more than my hypothetical first born midget kid (eerily enough, the last time I used that phrase was in a review (for Deathchain) I posted two years ago today, SPOOKY!). If I could just review album art, I'd give this 100% and call it a day. But no, I shan't, I'm'nna hold out and give these Swedish goofballs a fair shake with their music.
Spoiler alert: eh, it's okay. Lancer may have set the expectations a little too high with having such a brilliantly ludicrous album cover, because what's actually inside is far less insane than one would hope. That's not to say it's bad, it most certainly is not, but if you're expecting something lighthearted and over-the-top, this isn't the place to look. Lancer specializes in a fairly typical brand of power metal, sounding a lot like Kiske-era Helloween and Edguy. Really, you know exactly how the album is going to sound after a few minutes into the first track, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're into this kind of thing. The real problem is that they don't make up for their lack of originality by excelling in any other category.
What I mean is that they aren't really faster, more melodic, more soulful, heavier, or catchier than any other average power metal band. They don't have a great vocalist or guitarist or a stunningly good production job or great lyrics or anything like that. There's pretty much nothing to help the band stand out amongst their peers or the entire bloated European power metal scene in general. Luckily, all those qualities I mentioned are at least here, and they're at least good. Isak Stenvall's vocals are pretty good, not soaring or particularly unique, but pretty good. Fredrik Keleman and Peter Ellstrom's two headed guitar attack is pretty good, the melodies aren't terribly individualistic or impressive, but pretty good. Pretty much everything you could say about the album could be summed up as such; nothing even approaching superlative, but pretty good. If there's anything I could say is below "pretty good", it'd be that the production is kind of thin, but that's really about it.
Usually when a band is mediocre across the board, it acts as a big negative in itself (see: Human Filleted), but with Lancer here, it surprisingly isn't. The band and album are very utilitarian, everything does what it needs to do and it does it well, but doesn't do anything to go the extra mile. "Purple Sky" is really catchy and is pretty easily the best track on display, "Mr. Starlight" is probably the fastest song and has a layered chorus that is quite nice, and "Seventh Angel" and "Between the Devil and the Deep" are a little more downtempo, but that's really about all I can pick out after a half dozen or so listens. The choruses are all nice and pleasant, the melodies are all hummable, the drums never get distracting, but other than these things I'm really struggling to come up with anything to say. It's nice and easy and safe that's about all there is to it, it's the musical equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich.
Really all I can say is that Lancer showcases some good, fun, light power metal that's worth a listen or two, and certain tracks will probably stick with you (like "Purple Sky", I really like that one), but that's about all there is to it. It's not boring, so I can give it that much at least, but otherwise there's just not much worth caring all too deeply about. Fans of Keeper of the Seven Keys and such will lap this up, but otherwise eh. The best way I can describe this is to take the bombast of Rhapsody, the grit of Persuader, the energy of Iron Savior, the attitude of Edguy, the grandeur of Blind Guardian, and the charisma of Gamma Ray... and then take all of those things away. There, you have Lancer. Congratulations.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/