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What would happen if you got a pretty good Finnish power metal band together in their practice space, threw Kai Hansen in with them, and got them all roaring drunk while listening to Bloden Wedd?
Well, I’m sure that’s not how Merging Flare’s Reverence came to be, but it’s a fun way to think of it. In any case, these guys play a very high energy blend of German and Finnish power metal, with the former’s more aggressive riffing and vocal style with the latter’s melodic sensibilities and keyboard flair. Featuring some distinctive and excellent power metal screams courtesy of Matias Palm, yet boasting some of the most sublime choruses that I’ve heard this year, this band isn’t completely blowing hot air when they say that they’ve made the best Finnish power metal album ever (though it’s still an exaggeration- they’ve got the goods to back it).
The first several tracks of Reverence are complete headbanging bliss. “At Dagger’s Drawn” is one of the finest openers of the year, and the following “Faker”, despite having a strange name, maintains the very high mark of quality. Things really get cooking with “Carved In Stone” and “Terrordome”, and it becomes clear that the band means serious business, and have taken their power metal lessons to heart. Despite not having particularly lofty aspirations where creativity is concerned, Merging Flare is another band that just gets everything so right in the songwriting. One noticeable trait of the band is a knack for extremely well-placed modulations that do more than just “a quick step up for more emphasis on the final chorus”. For illustrations of this phenomenon, try “Carved In Stone”, for a particularly effective and noticeable example bridging the gap between the pre-chorus and the chorus.
In general, the band has a mastery of tonality and chord progression that keeps their songs interesting where other bands might fail. Oddly enough, one of my very favorite songs is the simple-minded but incredibly successful “Steel Redeemer”, which brims over with the kind of screaming power metal glory that would make bands like Bloden Wedd and Primal Fear proud. Despite slowing down for “Pride And Bravery”, the strong sense of melody remains, and it’s not until “Killing Ground” that the energy seems to slow, and the band takes a more Primal Fear-esque, less melodic approach. “Star Odyssey” has a Freedom Call-feel about it, launching into an anthemic chorus, but one that doesn’t quite hit all the buttons.
It has occurred to me as I write this that the first half of Reverence seems to favor the Finnish side of things: striking melodies and greater keyboard presence, while the Germanic flavor comes out amongst later tunes (the touches of Gamma Ray are also noticeable- see the layered choruses). Unfortunately, these later songs are not as well composed, making me wonder if they were perhaps hurried. Nonetheless, the majority of the album is extremely memorable: potent screams, great choruses, Kai Hansen-cameos, and guitars that roam the soundscape like independent but benign roaming beasts. Merging Flare lives up to its name: taking two of the strongest schools of power metal and creating a blinding shaft of light with which to burn away the ignorance of unbelievers!
Original review written for Black Wind Metal