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Chapter 3 of the ongoing Metalium saga sees the band making some line-up changes once again, this time downsizing the number of guitarist from two to only Mathias Lange. Although stylistically this is still the same band that brought forth two excellent textbook power metal albums in the Judas Priest vain, “Hero Nation” is a little bit of a step down in terms of songwriting. The speed is still there, the chops of all the members of the band are still on full display (in the case of Lars Ratz’s bass work there has been an upgrade to compensate for the missing 2nd guitar), but the overall listen from start to finish sees a small amount of lag in the energy department. Furthermore, whereas in the first two albums I could recall most of the songs from memory, here some of the tracks tend to stand out less.
Things start off with a bang with “Source of Souls”, the prototypical prelude with 2 narrations, one a soft feminine voice and the other a deep, gravely, masculine one. “Revenge of Tizona” features some solid speed metal work and one of the more memorable choruses on the album, loaded with vocal acrobatics on the part of Henning Basse. Another stand out track includes the slow and heavy “Odin’s Spell”, one of the longest and most epic songs to be put out by the band. “In the name of Blood” and “Accused to be a witch” have some really raunchy sounding bass work in the mix, matched by some hard hitting mid-tempo guitar riffs. “Rasputin” is one of the better examples of Painkiller worship heard on any of Metalium’s releases, spearheaded by a highly dramatic intro riff with a rising keyboard line. “Throne in the Sky” is also a decent and catchy fast track, although the vocal line Basse puts forth during the chorus will probably make you burst a blood vessel in your head if you try to hit it on his octave.
From here on in the album gets a little bit mixed, as both the following songs suffer in the songwriting department. “Odyssey” starts off pretty well with some atmospheric keyboard work and then a solid middle-eastern sounding riff, but the chorus just meanders and doesn’t really stick in my memory. “Fate Conquered the Power” drags too much and the chorus has a 2 note bass line that makes it sound like it wants to go somewhere but never does. “Infinite Love” is the band’s homage to the Romeo and Juliet story and features a well known opera singer doing a duet with Basse, definitely among the more unconventional metal songs in Metalium’s repertoire, but it works quite well, especially when the low as hell down-tuned guitar hits those bottom chords. The title track has a somewhat overdone intro, featuring an irregular drum beat that almost throws off the feel of the song, but once it gets going it cooks quite well and ends the album on a positive note.
Ultimately this is not a significant step down for the band, most of the same ingredients that made “Millenium Metal” and “State of Triumph” great are present, but the arrangement does miss the second guitarist a lot. The soloing on this album is not nearly as strong as the first two, and the overall listen is hits a lag during the second half. The idea of structuring an album around some major historical events is interesting, but seems a bit out of place when compared to the near-mystical and sci-fi elements of previous efforts. Perhaps I’m nitpicking a bit, but there is a recognizable difference between something that is excellent and something that is simply above average. If you are interested in this band, which most fans of German power metal probably should be, I recommend purchasing them in chronological order. The quality of Metalium’s sound has basically been on a slow wane since the beginning, although there is some hope that “Nothing to Undo”, which I have not heard yet, may see the band regaining ground.