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Only for the Most Devoted Power Metal Fans - 77%

octavarium, September 24th, 2012

With the formation of a power metal supergroup with members from bands such as Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, one would think it to be absolutely awesome. Especially considering those band members include the powerful vocals of Stratovarius' Timo Kotipelto, former Sonata Arctica guitar shredder Jani Liimatainen, and underrated former Sonata keyman Mikko Harkin. The combination of such talented Finns expectedly had power metal fans jumping for joy. And thus Cain's Offering was born. Despite no touring or major publicity, the band released a full-length album in 2009. Considering how much potential the group has here, the results are somewhat of a mixed bag.

While power metal has always been upbeat and melodic, it definitely has its heavier roots in bands such as Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and early Stratovarius. However, a focus on melody and keyboards to create a "magical" sound has been increasing over the years with most power metal bands earning the ire of "pure" metal fans who regard it as "flower metal." Quite frankly, it's all a bit ridiculous. Not all heavy metal should be dark, doom and gloom and there is definitely room for melody, which is what bands like Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius have been proving. Both are mostly keyboard-driven with standard power chords but often contain speedy and shred guitar solos with soaring tenor vocals. So with a quasi-combination of both, one would expect something similar if not better. And that's kinda where problems start to arise. With such high expectations of epic, melodic, guitar-shredding power metal, Gather the Faithful only meets some of them. With former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen the main creative force, one would think he would flex his muscles and spread his wings a bit more as a guitarist and include better riffwork than his Sonata power chords and even more solos that fans know and love. Instead, the guitar riffs are even less prevalent and there are, quite literally, maybe only two guitar solos on the entire album. That's it. The keyboards dominate the melodies here and the guitar work mostly serves as background noise. And it is for this reason that most metal fans don't consider this album as "true metal." And in a sense, they have a point. Consider this more as "melodic power rock" if anything. And the inclusion of sentimental ballads such as Into the Blue and Elegantly Broken or the schmaltzy lyricis of More Than Friends don't help the case either.

But this is by no means a terrible album. Timo Kotipelto's , though his voice is somewhat more restrained in his delivery than with Stratovarius, still does excellent vocal work and remains a truly underrated metal singer. And while Jani's guitarwork is much more in the background than it should be, Mikko Harkin actually compensates for it very well with catchy and symphonic melodies in both the verses and soloing. While some of the lyrics are a bit cheesy and difficult to follow, there's a good amount of emotion as well and Jani's skills as a lyricist flash up every now and then. For devoted power metal fans, there are quite a few speedy and fun songs, mainly opener Queen of Winter, which is clearly the winner of the album and gets things off to a good start. Stolen Waters, Dawn of Solace, and Thorn in My Side, while not as strong, certainly have their highlights and succeed as being just generally speedy and high-energy. Perhaps the most interesting song is the highly symphonic Morpheus in a Masquerade, and being the longest song on the album at nearly seven minutes allows for several progressive time changes and melodies. The instrumental title track, while not spectacular, still has a pretty steady feel and nice build-up from soft and melodic to heavy. The occasional ballad though will at times slow the pace of the album and for the most part are just generally boring and don't offer much creativity as far as power metal ballads go.

Unless you're a diehard fan of power metal and/or a fan of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica,chances are you will not like this album. And even the fanboys who consider the supergroup formation spectacular on paper might be disappointed with the overall sound and quality. But with the exception of the noticeable lack of guitar solos and the occasional overly-soft ballad, there are still quite a few fun and melodic tunes here and the overall skill level is impressive. Approach with caution and consider giving a few songs a listen on Youtube before committing to buying Gather the Faithful. Although it fails to live up to what it could have been and might not be entirely "metal" it's still a pretty fun listen every now and then.