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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.