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I remember the days when power metal was still new to me, and had not yet become one of my favorite subgenres. Much more frequented on my playlist in those days were bands such as Dream Theater (whom I still believe rock) and Fear Factory (who can go suck a…rock), but more prominently than either of these was Iron Maiden: quite possibly the quintessential “metal” band (hey, I’m a Maiden fan. Let me have my moment in the sun). And then I found Edguy, and all of a sudden I became attracted to this new and strange world of power metal. However, as youthful optimism tends to do, I started to become disillusioned in the subgenre as I found that, on my extensive searches, very few bands in this category (including some well known acts, cough cough Hammerfall cough) differentiated from their contemporaries, and lent to most bands sounding same-y.
So what does this have to do with Neonfly? Aside from having one of the dumbest names I’ve heard for a metal band (it seriously sounds like a Katy Perry album title), I’m happy to say that this band has managed to set themselves aside from others in their genre, and have carved out a niche for themselves, thanks to some interesting song construction and vocalizing.
Let’s break it down here; the band has a freshness to them that I seldom witness in music nowadays. The tracks are intricate, well-written, and spark a fire in the imagination. A variety of subject matter is discussed, such as damnation (The Revenant), apathy leading to a man’s dreams never being fulfilled (Ship With No Sails), and, yes, even a crazed man thinking he saw a UFO (aptly titled, I Think I Saw a UFO), and with each new subject matter, different imagery is conjured that envelops you in the story. The album just flows well.
Musically, there’s a plethora of sounds awaiting the eager listener. The album starts off with the bombastic, energy filled “Broken Wings” and “The Enemy,” followed by a more laid-back but strangely intricate “Ship With No Sails,” and so on and so forth. Personally, I find that “The Ornament,” a strictly instrumental track, is possibly the best track on the album as it showcases all the member’s talents in a fantastically composed package. For me, this is definitely the highlight of the album, although the battle-frenzied “Spitting Blood” is also high up on my list.
And yet, I cannot bring myself to give this band a higher score. “Why?” you might ask. “Inquiring minds demand to know!” And the truth of the matter is this; they play very well, and the band sounds great (even if the album is just a tad over-produced), but I haven’t heard anything new on this album that other bands from the genre couldn’t do themselves. From a strictly technical standpoint, none of the band members bring anything new to the table aside from perhaps their vocalist, Willy Norton. Though I must add before I move on to that subject matter that, although the band members alone aren’t necessarily the most “unique,” when they come together as a whole, they make a unique sound that is very interesting, and makes for an enjoyable listen.
Willy Norton has an amazing range; though he mostly idles around the mid-to-mid-high region, there are several times on this album where he throws caution to the wind and belts out a perfect, clean falsetto. He’s got an interesting voice, but this is not at all a turn-off; he’s a solid vocalist. There are a couple of spots where it sounds like his vocal cords might have been strained a bit, but not too bad. At these moments, he turns down the cleanliness of his singing and instead roars out a harsh yell, which in certain instances seems to work out very well (I can think of a specific point in Ship With No Sails). Whether this was an example of him leaving his vocal range, or simply using it as a transition is hard to say. Still, I’d like to see him, on future albums, keep within his range and not push himself too hard. I’ve heard too many vocalists who blew out their voices from too much force being put behind a performance (Eric Adams come to mind).
All in all, this is a solid release by a young and interesting band. I’m curious to see where they take their sound; hopefully, they’ll carry on in their own direction instead of going by that old standby that has plagued so many others in the power metal scene, like vying for a sound that has already been done a thousand times before. As long as these guys keep on target, they have a promising future ahead of them.