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The killing hand keeps on killing. - 88%

Empyreal, October 20th, 2012

Black Majesty has to be one of the best bands in metal today, or at least in power metal. They have five albums, this one being the fifth, four of them straight-up killer. They write complex songs with their own trademarked riff style and the inimitable vocals of Gio Cavaliere is just icing on the cake. Whenever these guys come out with a new album, I am all over it. Their last one In Your Honour was one of the standout albums of the whole year, and while the follow up Stargazer isn’t quiiiiite as good, it’s still up there with the top of the crop in 2012.

Really what is so good about this band has always been their unique sense of melody, which is important in power metal. People endlessly bitch and moan about power metal bands sounding generic or just like one another, and they do have something of a point – too many bands fall into the stereotypical Gamma Ray mode. Black Majesty has a real style and sound of their own; while it’s rooted in Iron Maiden and a touch of old Fates Warning at their more pugilistic, they’re definitely refining their own style with each album, and this one is the prime example of that refining. Stargazer is rife with careening, majestic melodies surrounded on all sides by Crimson Glory-esque riffs that can go fast as a speeding bullet or slow down to give more breadth to the melodies and vocals. The melodies sit comfortably between booming and slick modern power metal to more arcane and esoteric ones that recall the slightly proggier side of old 80s metal to add some extra atmosphere and feeling. It’s a sound that is both immediate and cerebral, and Black Majesty rule it with big hooks and a cool, confident charisma.

Gio’s voice is in fine form. He has this really good voice which can do just about everything the band needs it to do – he can wail, he can go down to a Roy Khan-esque midrange and he can sing a sweet, soft ballad like “Shine” too. He’s just a great singer, with a ton of power and control over his voice, and he’s a big asset to Black Majesty’s sound. The riffs are heavy and durable, always moving with the rest of the music like a flowing and cohesive unit – the whole sound is very much a rock-solid example of good songwriting for this genre. The mark of a great band is when you’ll stay with them no matter what direction they take with one song to the next: a few fast songs in a row, followed by an epic or two, and then a straight up ballad at the end? No matter what type of song they’re doing Black Majesty sounds on point and confident. Opener “Falling” kills, and so do the blistering “Voice of Change” and the powerful “The Killing Hand.” And “Journey to the Soul” has to be one of their best songs ever with its wandering, epic feel that will take you across the sands of time to ancient castles and tombs. The title track is also very good – a stirring, ponderous epic that builds up like a rising rocket heading for the stars.

If there’s a fault to this, it’s just that it doesn’t push the boundaries like the last one did and the songwriting is a little less adventurous. Unlike In Your Honour or their boundary-pushing first two albums, this one is more streamlined and a little less complex overall. It’s Black Majesty stripping down their sound to its essentials, and while it’s definitely one of their more balanced and well put together albums, I miss the more exciting and daring side of the band shown on songs like “Fall of the Reich” or “End of Time” off previous albums. But it’s just nitpicking to talk about what this album isn’t, because overall it’s still really good, and will be one of the standouts at the end of this year. For fans of power metal, Black Majesty is one of the better bands to get into right now. Go get Stargazer and let your soul fly to the stars.