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Not just a Dark Moor clone. - 80%

hells_unicorn, July 9th, 2007

I was highly skeptical of this album after seeing several reviews of its predecessor, essentially equating it to a bad version of Dark Moor, which seemed plausible as this band contained two former members of that band. But if that was the case (I haven’t heard that album yet), then there were some major changes in the songwriting between that album and this one. Although there are some remnants of the symphonic tendencies that were found on “Hall of Olden Dreams”, this listens much more like a power/progressive album in the vain of later Dragonland, Evergrey, and some traces of Symphony X.

Like most of the symphonic power metal albums of a few years back, we start off with a short instrumental prelude that is reminiscent of Rhapsody, but what follows is about as far removed from the Italian symphonic metal pioneers as it gets. “Illusions” and “Dance of Souls” have some heavy, down-tuned guitar grooves that would be at home on Symphony X’s “The Odyssey”, not to mention the modal keyboard work in the background. “Riding Alone” is an interesting mix of orchestral textures, synthesizer lines, and some heavy edged riff work, almost seeming to marry Luca Turilli’s better solo work with some rather intricate rhythmic contrast.

Even the ballad work seems to take on a style of its own, occasionally sounding a tiny bit like Nightwish, but with some folk-oriented instrumentation rather than a lot of electronic sounding stuff. “Keltia” features female vocalist M. Carmen Castaño, who ironically sounds less like Elisa Martín than her male counterpart, and instead marries a smooth approach to the occasional rough edged shout to give it some needed attitude. “Lullaby” is not quite as exciting, pretty much living up to its name and being a simplistic snore fest; nothing offensive about it, but its skip worthy.

The best part of this album hits right towards the center of the album, where male vocalist Nacho Ruiz takes command of the fold and basically emulates Elisa well, albeit with a slightly more masculine voice, and the album sounds more like standard power metal. “Fantasy or Reality” has a pretty elongated intro with the occasional Dark Moor moments, but the riffing shifts back and forth between fancy Gamma Ray worship and the low end grooves found earlier. “No more tears” takes my pick for the best track on here, mostly for its incredibly powerful chorus, reminding me of the better days of power metal in the earlier 2000s. Nacho really throws his voice around a lot here, but the collective effort of the whole band should be accented as well, as this song is about the most densely textured anthem out of a power metal band in a long time.

The rest of the album is mostly good, but it tapers off a bit after “No more tears”, leaving you with the impression that it drags on a bit too long. “Somewhere in the Past” is another solid example of good Symphony X worship, but other than that it’s mostly forgettable. If there is a fatal flaw to this album it is that there was a bit too much of an effort to sound progressive and thus the power side, particularly the choruses get neglected and the song becomes unmemorable.

If you’re a fan of any of the bands that I mentioned, this would be a nice album to add to your collection, especially if you like 2 vocalist outfits other than the toneless growl male voice, countered by the clean pristine/gothic soprano. Nacho Ruiz left the fold after this album, which will likely take most of the remnants of their Dark Moor sound out of the picture when they release their next album. People knock this band for having so many members, although funnily enough the same individuals give lavish praise to bands that happen to have tons of guest musicians on their work. I say just sit back and enjoy, think of it as a power metal version of a big band.