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Mellow, keyboard driven rock/metal with some classical intersections - 75%

Gas_Snake, March 3rd, 2020

Here's an obscure Russian band that's rather dear to my heart. This is Alexy's Square - a melodic heavy metal band that I discovered some time ago. The main reason why I like them is their unique inclusion of keyboards and interesting lyrics. For those that don't know, the Russian metal scene is predominantly heavy/power metal, by which I mean it's about 95% Iron Maiden and Rhapsody clones. These guys are a breath of fresh air in a sea of those overabundant bands, which is another reason why they were such a great find for me.

As for the actual music and what makes it unique, the main thing to note is that it's not very heavy at all. This is a very keyboard driven album - so much so that I would call the keys the primary instrument here. There's even some moments where the keys outright replace the guitars, such as the intro riffs of "The Beast" and "Taken Alive". There are numerous instrumental tracks on here, all of them being piano-driven compositions with occassional backing guitars. They're not sappy Elton John ballads, but rather classical-esque pieces that wouldn't be out of place in the 19th century. They are spread out rather evenly across the album, so the heaviness is undermined even more. That's not to imply that this is bad, just different from what you're probably used to.

If you're turning your nose at that paragraph just now, then don't worry - this is not a cheesy, over-the-top power metal album. What's actually found here is an evenly spread out collection of heavy metal tracks with abundant synths and piano ("Words" and "Waves") and the aforementioned instrumentals ("Hourglass" and "To The Skies"). My favorite here is the opener "Words", with its gripping melodies and distinct lyrical theme. The title track is another outlier, being a piano ballad that eventually gets picked up by the guitars and taken towards a satisfying climax. The mediocre tracks here are actually the most metal ones - "The Beast" and "Taken Alive". Their lyrics and feel are more similar to what is typically found in heavy metal, but the abundance of keys actually hurts these tracks by undermining the heaviness of the riffs - particularly in "Taken Alive", which is a cover of a proper metal song about the glorification of metal itself. Such a song just doesn't work when it is made less heavy and less metal.

What all of this amounts to is a great debut that establishes all of the band's unique aspects. They have since released two more full-lengths that stylistically shift away from the mellowness of this record towards a more traditional heavy metal/power metal style. However, I'd call this my favorite of the band's works, as it is their most unique and interesting release. If you're in the mood for some melodic rock music that doesn't get cheesy or boring, you will likely enjoy this.