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Of all the various lead guitarists out there who derive their sound from the Yngwie Malmsteen school of heavy metal neo-classicism, Rick Renstrom is probably the most formulaic and predictable. This tends to work to his advantage since the instant familiarity that his lead work brings to a listener makes his music a little more accessible than others who either mix in progressive, neo-tonal, jazz elements, or simply play such elaborate stuff within the Baroque system that it’s hard to follow. The only players who are probably a little more wrapped into these powerful yet obvious clichés are Dushan Petrossi (Magic Kingdom, Iron Mask) and Luca Turilli (Rhapsody).
“Until The Bitter End” sees Renstrom applying his talents to telling a series of musical and lyrical tales pertaining to a series of apocalyptic events, the principle one being the destruction of humanity by a gigantic asteroid. Within the formulaic template that was largely also applied to Leash Law, but with a lot more guitar work and multiple singers, he crafts a series of catchy songs and technically impressive instrumentals that remind heavily of Yngwie’s “Trilogy” and a couple of Rob Rock’s albums. The keyboard slots preformed by Mistheria (not sure who that is) are fairly similar to the wild note frenzies that Vitalij Kuprij is known for through his various projects.
Between the instrumentals and the songs there is a lot to consider, but there are some basic trends that become obvious within both. Not one to get too wrapped up in elaborating melodies with additional notes, Renstrom shows that he can maintain a simple melody without adding a sweep picking or descending scale run every 8 seconds on “Symphony #40” and “Opus Lix”, both of which add the sweetness you’d hear out of a Brain May solo to the Malmsteen tonality that dominates this album. But for all of you thousand note a minute enthusiasts out there need not fear, for you get a really heavy dose of speed right at the beginning of the album on “Moment Of Impact”, where Renstrom almost sounds like he’s getting ahead of himself he’s going so fast.
The songs are all cut largely cut from the straightforward model that you’d likely hear out of Seven Witches and Firewind, if not going for an all out Rising Force homage. The various guest vocal slots are all solid, although Mat Sinner’s mostly gravely and powerful vocal job done on the speed metal song “Calling On Vengeance” will likely appeal to most fans of the older US power metal style. Rob Rock and Wade Black both do their parts extremely well, but are both from the cleaner European style that was really popular at this point and time. I do have to say that other than a couple of the songs on “Dogface”, what Black puts forward on Towers Of Babylon” is the best work I’ve heard out of him thus far.
Melodic power metal fans and shred fans alike are sure to eat this up, and the only reason why they may have not already is because of all the other acts out there, mostly European based, who seem to have stronger advertising and marketing support. It’s heavily similar to what you’d get out of Narnia and Magic Kingdom, but it’s a great listen nonetheless. And regardless to what some may say it is a step up from what Yngwie has been doing for the past 8 years before picking up Tim Owens on vocals.