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Uniquely tried and true. - 81%

hells_unicorn, March 10th, 2010

Formed out of the soon to be ashes of Dionysus, and fronted by the former helmsman of Highland Glory, Saint Deamon comes to the still growing array of European power metal bands offering something of a compromise between the established dogmas of the style established by Helloween and Stratovarius, while incorporating a few elements of the newer AOR influences attributed to Masterplan and the now defunct Ride The Sky. This mixture has a greater tendency towards the former, and with Grefstad at the microphone, thankfully avoids being led by yet another series of David Coverdale emulations. But like their AOR contemporaries, this outfit avoids grandiose epics while incorporating limited amounts of progressive rock influences, resulting in something that is somewhat versatile yet otherwise very compact.

Although not pushing the boundaries too much, “In Shadows Lost From The Brave” does carve out an identity that is very much its own. The combination of a melancholy yet not quite as dense keyboard backdrop as that of Highland Glory’s last album “Forever Endeavor”, a fairly dark and deep guitar character, and Grefstad’s high soaring vocals (which regularly flirt with Dan Heiman territory) works out to something not all that far from what Sonata Arctica might have accomplish if they hadn’t butchered their approach so badly on “Unia”. Songs like “My Heart” and “No Man’s Land” really capture that woeful metallic character that was clearly realized on “Winterheart’s Guild” in a much slower manner, almost akin to what Dio might have done a few years prior if they’d decided to take influences from current keyboard oriented Scandinavian power metal bands.

Nonetheless, for most of this album the general tendency towards melody driven, catchy, up tempo anthems peculiar to the European style is maintained here. “In Shadows Lost From The Brave”, “Black Symphony” and “The Brave Never Bleeds” all hearken back about 7 to 9 years prior when the style was still blossoming throughout Northern Europe, though dressed up with a some heavier groove riffs, a few studio effects and some sparsely placed lead guitar intercessions. It’s been heard before, but its presentation is modified slightly to capture a darker character. A good example to illustrate this is the contrast between Fairyland and Hamka, for those who are familiar with the symphonic area of this sub-genre. The latter of these two had a near identical style and arrangement (including the same vocalist and drummer) to that of the former, but took a very different approach to songwriting.

By the standards of 2008, this is a really solid offering, though it does lag a bit behind the heights reached by the genre several years back, including the two bands that most of the membership of this one came out of. One could liken this to picking up the pieces, as the power metal scene in Northern Europe has either been lagging in general, or otherwise caught up in experimentation and all but abandoned the original spirit of the sound. There is some better stuff out there, but this would definitely be worth looking into, particularly if you’re hungry for more epic, glass shattering vocals and are bummed that Lost Horizon hasn’t put out anything in years and that Heed has broken up.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 10, 2010.