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A worthy successor to the metal opera emerges. - 93%

hells_unicorn, May 27th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Pride & Joy Music

The level of disappointment that yours truly has had with the direction that Avantasia took following their second LP can not be understated, but the past 15 years following said album has brought about a number of would be successors outside the purview of Tobias Sammet's personal whims. Many various projects have come into being following a similar presentation in terms of structure, each providing their own stylistic twist on the concept. But whether it be the lofty D&D imagery of Marius Danielsen's Legend Of Valley Doom, or the more vague post-apocalyptic feel of Timo Tolkki's Avalon, a sense of emptiness was still felt that was far from quenched by the lackluster output of Tobias Sammet of late.

A powerful successor with a similar spirit of musicality coupled with a greater technical flair would seem a surprising turn of events, let alone from a place as sparsely populated with power metal acts as Norway, but that is where Aldaria fits into things. Being the brain child of a rather obscure person in Frode Hovd, from a very obscure mid-2000s band Memorized Dreams that is probably best known as the origin of current Pyramaze front man Terje Harřy, expectations are seemingly set more so by guest/session personalities than by the power behind the scenes. With a veritable who is who of power metal vocal and instrumental heavy-hitters from all over Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe, expectations are naturally anything but low.

But for the extended cast of characters that lend their talents to this album, Land Of Light actually manages to carry the day through solid songwriting and infectious hooks, all of which are the handiwork of the presenter himself. In a refreshing departure from the overly safe and measured character that dogged Timo Tolkki's Avalon and Aina, the name of this album is early 2000s throwback, complete with all the shred happy guitar solos, larger than life keyboard themes and generally fast tempos and triumphant themes. Picture an amalgamation of all the elements that made the seminal works of Freedom Call, Koltipelto-fronted Stratovarius, Edguy, Kaledon and At Vance all rolled into one, then injected with the powerful production work of Serious Black and it all becomes quite clear.

The bright spots on this veritable solar flare of an album are actually rather fitting given tendency that this album has to mirror the structure of turn-of-the-millennium Edguy, in fact, the album almost seems to have been formatted after the model of Theater Of Salvation. A high number of speeders round out the fold, with most of the really riveting ones featuring the thunderous drum work of the all but forgotten Helloween kit maestro Uli Kusch, with "Lost In The Darkness Below" and "Where Reality Ends" being of particular note in terms of sheer velocity. But the most utterly astounding part of this album is the epic closer and title song "Land Of Light", which not only features the combined vocal talents of Fabio Lione and Dragony's Siegfried Samer (two singers I thought I'd never hear on the same song), but also the orchestration talents of Peter Crowley (Fantasy Dream), resulting in a fit of symphonic metallic brilliance worthy of a true climax of such an ambitious album.

Naturally this is all merely the tip of a massive ice berg that features an impressive and highly diverse collection of vocalists and musicians that span an, until now, untapped part of the European power metal scene. Perhaps even more consequential than even the fact that Frode managed to get both the current and previous vocalists of Falconer onto the same album is the monumental lead guitar contributions provided by guitarist of the same band Jimmy Hedlund, who manages to outright surpass the fret board majesty that Henjo Richter provided for Avantasia in the early days. This is the sort of power metal album that is almost too much fanfare to handle, and barring an occasional rut into sappy balladry where another speed metal anthem could have been, will remind any stalwart fan of the style why they originally pledged their loyalty to it.

This Is Putrid. - 15%

Khat57, May 26th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Pride & Joy Music

It has been a long time since an album has invoked such frustration within me like Aldaria's debut (and hopefully last) album, Land Of Light, has that it made me go back to this website to write a pent-up jumble of artificially bloated words that probably 12 people will even see, let alone care about. It seems like a lot of no-names have come out of the woodwork lately to take a stab at the "metal opera" formula that Avantasia has created and already perfected over 15 years ago. Christ, Aldaria even stole the name starting and ending with 'A' thing from Avantasia! And so did Aina, now that I think about it! At least Marius Danielsen's Legend Of Valley Doom, long-winded as that name is, is somewhat original.

And who does this Frode Hovd putz think he is that he thinks he can just slap his name in the logo like he's actually somebody? Even as a pretty hardcore Euro-power metal fan, Hovd's main band Memorized Dreams doesn't really ring any bells for me, probably because they haven't released anything in a decade now and no one seemed to care when they actually were around. Marius Danielsen took a gamble naming his project after him too, but in the end, he showed that he had the songwriting chops to back it up. If I wrote something as uninspired and bland as Aldaria, I wouldn't want my name anywhere near it. So it amazes me that this shitty project managed to get together a cast like it did. All of their talent is absolutely wasted here. Tommy Johansson?! What the fuck are you doing here, go back to Reinxeed or at least making Sabaton suck less! Todd Michael Hall?! Come on dude, you're in Riot now! This is beneath you! PelleK?! Your Youtube covers suck but this is beneath you, too! MATHIAS BLAD?! Wasting this man's talents is an absolute SIN and it is done here in the most egregious way possible. Blad lends his angelic, bard-like voice to a banal ballad called "Trail Of Tears." Wow, never seen that title before! Or "Sands Of Time" for that matter, look at that innovation! There's even another similarly titled song called "Test Of Time!" And yet two more song titles on top of that with some variation on "____ Of ____." I can't even be sarcastic anymore, that's lazy as shit. That's modern Rhapsody of Fire levels of uninspired drivel.

This album doesn't do much wrong, but it's hard to find things it does right. It has none of its own style or flair and is as trite and cliche as they come. Most of the guest performers try their damnedest to elevate this but there's no saving songwriting this poor. The best song on here is probably "Lost In The Darkness Below", a speedster with a kinda catchy chorus but it still sounds like nearly every other song on here. "Another Life" doesn't exactly start things off on the right foot, with an intro that sounds like the bastard child of later Gamma Ray and Iron Savior and dives into the least imaginative riff you can think of: a midpaced "dun da-da dun da-da dun." You can probably hear it in your head just from me writing that. I guess there's a story tying all of this together but I couldn't be arsed to tell you what it's about. Probably just some bullshit about light defeating darkness. God, even Timo Tolkki would take a second look at this album if he was writing it and be like "Ehhh, I can expand on this and make it a little more interesting." Even some of the performances are piss-poor. On "Sands Of Time," there's a female vocalist by the name of Mina Giannopoulou who has this obnoxious tendency to take a deep-ass breath before every line on top of her breathy normal vocals and nobody thought to edit those out. WHY?! This isn't a fucking Twitch stream, no one wants to hear you breathe into a microphone! Fabio Lione's performance on the 12-minute title track also sounds like a phoned in first take, like most of his appearances in metal lately, never even mind that most of the rest of the song is boring as shit. There's nothing "epic" about it, certainly nothing to warrant it being 12 minutes since, again, it sounds like every other song on the album, just stretched out with more verses and solos.

Among other annoyances, what the flying fuck does this album need 6 guys on synthesizers and 3 bassists for? This teeters dangerously close on Valley Doom's territory of "getting as many people as possible to perform so the sticker on the album says 'Featuring members of _____, _____ and ______!'" If the bass was going to get drowned out anyway, why not get just one poor schmuck to do it and be done with it? There's almost no variation between all of the songs, even down to their running times, and it's hard to even differentiate between the three basic speeds, "fast," "mid-paced," and "ballad." Well nah, I guess the ballads suck a bit more than the rest, like they always do on power metal albums.

The only joy I got from this album was giggling like a 10-year-old as the goofy vocal layering (or maybe Yannis Papadopoulos' accent) made "masquerade" sound like "masturbate" on "Guardians Of The Light." Otherwise, it was probably the most mind-numbingly dull experience I've had with power metal in ages. Repeat after me, hotshots who think they can do some half-assed concept album with a bunch of guests and call it a metal opera - Star power alone cannot make an album good. There has to be effort put into the songwriting so the guests can give it their all and push themselves like they do with their main bands. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of wasted potential. This album is just some half-assed "me too!" from a guy who hasn't made music in a decade, and it shows in the outdated songwriting. I don't think anyone who was even involved with this album will remember it in a few months' time, let alone myself. Skip this, hard.