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Everything you want in melodic power metal - 80%

TrooperOfSteel, July 27th, 2011

Australia’s own Black Majesty have returned to give us another dose of melodic power metal, with their latest CD entitled ‘Tomorrowland’. Black Majesty would be clearly one of Australia’s top 5 metal acts, and they are quickly becoming more and more known outside of Australia, especially in Europe. In fact, Black Majesty have become one of the best sellers with their German label, Limb Music. Limb boasts other top metal bands such as Burning Point, Cryonic Temple, Human Fortress, Mob Rules and Rhapsody. Black Majesty are working very hard in Europe and they are inked to perform this year in festivals such as the Wacken Open Air Festival, the Masters of Rock Festival and the Slovak Metal Universe Festival. Black Majesty have also opened for some of the better power metal bands going around, including Dragonforce, Hammerfall and Edguy.

‘Tomorrowland’ is Black Majesty’s 3rd CD, following on from their previous CD, ‘Silent company’ and the debut ‘Sands of time’. Both their first and 2nd releases received lots of praise from the metal world, so how will ‘Tomorrowland’ stack up against those 2? Well, the first thing I noticed about ‘Tomorrowland’ was that it is much faster and more complex (e.g. arrangement, more key changes) then it’s predecessors. Secondly, the guitar work and the drumming has been finely tuned and improved. ‘Tomorrowland’ contains some fantastic guitar solos that are complex, meaningful and just off the charts; while the drumming really impressed me too. And if you like songs with pummelling double bass, then this is the CD for you. Compared to their other CDs, in short, ‘Tomorrowland’ is a good mix of their previous releases.

Where I find some faults though, is with the vocal delivery. Now don’t get me wrong, I really like John Cavaliere’s vocals; they are unique and he is a top-notch vocalist. If I could find a weakness, however, it would be with the fastest songs on the CD. I feel that his vocals aren’t delivered as strongly as they are on the lesser speedy tracks. Whether it has something to do with the production or not, I feel that his vocals are kind of lost within the music and the pitch is a little off. As for the more mid-to-fast paced melodic tracks, John really stands out and delivers perfectly.

As for the tracks on the CD, they are all very solid. Even though I couldn’t really find any “killer” standout songs, that isn’t a bad thing. All the songs on the CD are consistent and enjoyable, with no weak tracks at all. If I had to choose the better of the solid tracks, my 3 favourite tracks would be the more melodic and catchy ones on the CD. They include “Bleeding world”, “Another dawn” and “Scars”. While I myself enjoyed those 3 tracks the most, other listeners would also like “Forever damned”, “Evil in your eyes” and the title track “Tomorrowland”. There is another nice track which would be referred to as the ballad on the CD, and that is the cover of the Deep Purple song “Soldier of fortune”.

All fans of Black Majesty should thoroughly enjoy this release, as it is just as good as their previous CDs. And fans of melodic power metal should also give ‘Tomorrowland’ a good listen as it contains everything you look for in a great melodic power metal CD; catchy songs, awesome guitar solos and soaring melodic vocals.

Black Majesty, once again you have done Australia and Australian metal proud, now go out there and get ‘em. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!

A living history. - 87%

hells_unicorn, May 9th, 2010

A good sense of history is usually required in order to create a good power metal album, or any album under the general moniker of metal. It is not so much a matter of reliving the past, but actually understanding what is in the past so that you don’t end up appearing to be living in it. Naturally, this entails having a versatile understanding of many bands that have contributed to the collective evolution of the style, thus avoiding the inevitable “clone” label that gets tossed around cavalierly at present. Probably one of the best examples of this nuanced approach to metal historicism is Australia’s own Black Majesty, who in the age of mainstream darlings such as Dragonforce, have offered up a much more subtle and humble approach to a style that is not really known for either.

The third and most compact of this outfit’s releases in “Tomorrowland” stands not so much as their greatest album, but definitely the clearest example of how subtlety and compactness can win out over any combination of technical mastery and drawn out epic compositions. Like its predecessors, it draws heavily from the early glory days of Queensryche and Fates Warning, matching memorable vocal hooks with a tasteful keyboard presence, while taking a mostly speed metal approach in all other respects, particularly conjuring up images of late 80s Agent Steel and Helstar. But unlike before, there is a strongly scaled back approach to song structure and melodic contour that hearkens back more to Deep Purple, which is further drawn out by the inclusion of a cover by said band.

The application of these heavily compatible styles is fairly linear, resulting in 9 original songs that appear somewhat interchangeable, though each possessing some nuances that keep the album from being either a dry rehash of the past, or the same song over and over. Sometimes the vocal performance of Gio Cavaliere is where the distinction is most obvious, varying from a rather plain vocal delivery on “Forever Damned” to a high end homage to Geoff Tate on “Tomorrowland”. At other times rhythmic complexity and sectional contrast draws out a sort of mini-epic approach as heard on “Bleeding World”. And still at others, a change in mood from the somber blackness hinted in the band’s name to a more triumphant character as heard on the highly memorable chorus of “Wings To Fly” really draws a distinctive line in the sand.

It would be a mistake to call this the crowning achievement of the band, but when taken for what it is in itself, “Tomorrowland” is a fine effort from a band that has managed to keep itself consistent in a time of constant and often aimless change. It is definitely intended for a deeper listening experience, particularly those who want to get a little bit of social awareness and emotional maturity mixed in with their knights and sorcerers. Some may simply dismiss it as a stylistic throwback to the mid 80s that lacks the chops of Dream Theater, the blinding speed of Dragonforce, or the pomp and circumstance of Helloween. But these songs were not heard in 1986, nor was the blending of high tempo and atmosphere that they put forth, and we are much better for having heard them when they were released than not at all.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on May 9, 2010.

A mediocre album from a good band - 64%

Empyreal, October 23rd, 2007

As anyone who looks through my reviews would notice, I'm a fan of Australian power metallers Black Majesty. They're one of the stronger power metal acts around these days, with intricate, complicated Fates Warning-isms and bits of Blind Guardian floating through their wide plethora of songwriting influences, soaring, operatic vocals, technical and heavy riffage, and overall more POWER than other power metal bands could even dream of these days. Their sophomore effort Silent Company was fantastic, blending the progressive, Awaken the Guardian-esque song structures of the debut with a healthy dose of catchy choruses and melodies ala Gamma Ray or Iron Maiden, making for quite the enjoyable and endlessly replayable sound. Upon learning of the advent of their new album Tomorrowland, I was hoping they'd be able to keep the magic flame of their previous releases burning strong, but sadly I must say this is a bit of a disappointment.

On the surface, this is still a Black Majesty album. They haven't turned into raging homosexual butt-pirates as Twilightning have, and they certainly haven't watered their sound down into a sugary, poppy, sterilized mush as the (wishfully) deceased Nocturnal Rites have done. If anything, this is their most complex album yet, as it took longer to sink in for me than either of the others did. The songs mostly hover around the 4-5 minute mark, and for some reason there is a lack of a long, epic songs and of ballads, leaving all of the space here for more midpaced, thoughtful pounders than anything else. As is expected from such a warning sign, this lacks the cohesive, intelligent punch of the debut and the catchy, explosive power of Silent Company, as these songs are wholly unmemorable, faceless and even boring sometimes. The songwriting is still complex, yet it doesn't stun me in the way that Sands of Time did, instead blending this album into background music most of the time. The band just didn't seem to want to focus on catchiness or memorability here, creating technically good tunes that will pass by you in a blur and leave you still humming the title track and "Firestorm" off the last album. Sure, "Forever Damned" is a pretty good opener, but it crumbles in the face of the openers of the other two albums by this band. After that, the album pretty much sinks into unmemorable slush, and never recovers.

I don't think the vocal melodies here are very good, either. Gio Cavaliere has a fantastic voice, but in the same way the band stopped writing catchy tunes, his vocal lines have become very bland, for lack of a better word. He's still singing and he's still on key, but you won't remember any of these lines after the disc stops playing. The vocal melodies here are often even quite annoying, as is evident on the rather strained, dragging chorus of "Into the Black", and you'd think Cavaliere would do better, considering that this is the same guy who belted out the star-shattering falsetto on "A Better Way to Die" and the stimulating, energetic final lines of the epic "Dragon Reborn." This just isn't the best he can do, period. I know the band can write better vocal melodies than they did here. Every singer has a few bad days, and unfortunately, Cavaliere had a few of his recorded onto this album.

This is by no means a bad album, but it's not very good either. While the songwriting is tight, it's not the best Black Majesty can do. The vocal lines are passable, yet very mediocre for this band. You'll spot a few good solos or riffs here and there (check "Scars" for the best), but this is basically a half-assed effort from an otherwise great band. Seriously, if a Deep Purple cover is the best song on your album, then you're probably doing something very wrong. It's got the markings of a transitional effort, though - the kind of pedestrian and boring album you'll get thrown at you right before a band releases a genre defining classic. Helloween did it with Rabbits coming before the grandiose Keepers III, so could Black Majesty as well be on the verge of creating a classic? Time will tell.