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Power Metal can be a very touchy genre. When it's executed properly (eg Manowar, Sonata Arctica, Jag Panzer) it totally owns, and when it's done poorly it just stinks really hard. Most power metal walks a very fine line somewhere between awesome triumphantness and terrible cheesiness, and epic imagery and po-faced pretentiousness. Luckily, Angel of Eden approach the whole power metal thing from a very laid back, down to earth angle, and as a result this is a very enjoyable album.
Indeed, this album is really good to listen too. It's sweet enough to make your eyes roll back in your head but it's more addictive then crack, and it will keep you coming back. 'Return of the Pharoah Pt.1' is a great example on how to do excellent power metal instrumentals- it's just really epic and even quite atmospheric in its' delivery, with some excellent solos. Solos abound in this album- there's plenty of keyboard and guitar shredding for everyone- and while it's the usual neo classical shredding style it's still melodic and intensely enjoyable. The keys are an excellent feature of this album- there's the usual synths in the background, but often the keys take a much more active role and it's a great thing.
Personally, I think the instruments dominate throughout the album, from the aforementioned 'Return' to the excellent shredfest that is 'You don't Remember...' (is that a Yngwie cover? It sounds like one) to the more straightforward power riffing that's 'Into the Black', and even the sickeningly sweet melody of 'Keys to Avalon' sounds great. While most power metal reviewers would concentrate on the guitars and keys (which is valid, as they're really excellent), the drums need a definite mention, as there's lots of surprising, unconventional beats here and there, and instead of the usual faceless power metal drumming there's plenty of personality within the beats, which is always a good thing.
Of course, one make or break thing in Power Metal is the vocals. Blind Guardian's 'Nightfall in Middle-Earth' is a good example of terrible vocals ruining an album, and the genre is littered with bands that are ruined by terrible vocalists. Luckily for us Carsten Schulz can deliver the vox with a lot of power and authority. He may only be like 4 feet tall but damn, this guy has a great voice. It's powerful and epic, but not too high pitched, it's emotional without way too much vibrato, and he's one of those rare vocalists who can overdub their singing without sounding really freaking cheesy. His performance is excellent in most songs, particularly in the epic 'Battle of 1386' and perhaps the title track.
It's funny, as I put this album on while I wrote this, the review just got more and more positive as it went on- this album is definitely a grower, no doubt. If there were any criticisms it would be that some of the lyrics are really cheesy, but that's basically about it. This is high quality stuff, and while the vocals might seem a bit cliched and the guitars a bit wanky at first glance, more listens reveal that this is just a really good album, with plenty of epicness but still lots of huge rocking out sections.
(originally written for metal-observer.com)