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Vengeance served up sweet and cold. - 89%

hells_unicorn, April 16th, 2011

Seasons may change, friendships may fluctuate, rivers may ebb and flow, yet for some reason Celesty never seems to find itself in any of these situations. Even with the growing trend towards some form of substantial stylistic shift or evolution in many power metal acts in their own native Finland, this band is firmly rooted in the earth of triumphant speed metal orthodoxy as a great oak. Whenever this band is heard, the same classic dichotomy of heroic exploits and an slight atmospheric coldness dominates the moment, but on the powerful opus that is “Vendetta”, there is an even greater punch from their gauntleted fists than any of their previous works with Antti Railio manning the microphone.

This is an album that sees the band venturing slightly closer to Rhapsody Of Fire, a band that they have generally differed from by employing a much humbler arrangement. The orchestral and vocal backdrop is much more in line with the bombastic pomp heard on “Power Of The Dragonflame”, and the riff work is about equally as ferocious, leaving little time to collect one’s thoughts as one speed section proceeds to the next. Even Railio’s vocals, which still retain that strong Tony Kakko tinge to them, are much more powerful and bordering on raging as each verse passes into an impressive collection of memorable choruses. It’s not quite as technically flashy as the works of Luca Turilli and company, but it definitely captures that awe inspiring, majestic sound that was commonplace on said fold’s releases with Limb Music.

Even when first starting off from the prototypical instrumental overture, these Finns hint at an oncoming storm of sound and pick things up quickly, before exploding into a veritable celebration of metallic warfare. The first four full length songs are unrelenting speeders that are among the best that one can hope for in 2009, often making references to early 2000s symphonic power metal greats, and particularly sounding familiar of Rhapsody and Dark Moor on “Euphoric Dream” and “Like Warriors”. When the album hits its midpoint with “Feared By Dawn”, things start off fairly slow and serene, but within a minute things are back on overdrive with an almost thrashing display of fury, tempered with plenty of film score oriented orchestrations and consonant melodies.

One thing becomes obvious as the second half of the album unfolds, and that is that while Celesty does make time for slower breaks, they tend to be short, or otherwise are equally matched with heavy guitars/faster sections. The only thing resembling a long break from the continuing flurry of double bass dominated madness is “Lord Of This Kingdom”, which tends a bit more towards a mid tempo song, but still finds time to gallop around and pummel the ears with some low end riff work. Antti’s vocal work on this song is particularly power, both polished and gritty as he tells yet another epic tale of warriors seeking vengeance. “New Sin” and “Dark Emotions” venture back to the blazing fury of the first half of the album, but things are leaning a bit more towards a more Sonata Arctica character, which become all but 100% blatant later on in the case of the formulaic and catchy “Gates Of Tomorrow”, a bonus track that reminds pretty heavily of “Wolf And Raven”.

Perhaps the only complaint that can be launched against this album is that there are a few cases where the band gets either a little too predictable, or a little too long-winded. The radio single “Fading Away” is probably among the better songs ever to be committed to a shorter, radio-friendly format by a band in this genre, but it stands out as being too safe amongst the colossal array of speed metal going on through 90% of the album. And the closing song, which also happens to be the 3rd installment of the “Legacy Of Hate” series, falls into the same general trap as its two predecessors. There’s a lot of good moments, not the least of it being where Railio is either crooning or shouting, but the sections are a bit overlong, particularly the quieter ones, and come off as forced. This massive 14 minute epic could probably stand to shed about 3 minutes of slow development in order to leave less time waiting for the good parts.

All in all, the second best studio offering that this crew of Finns has put out, and unfortunately the last one with Antti at the helm. While a new singer will probably prove to be a welcome change given the former’s heavily similar voice to a number of other power metal vocalists, it was a solid run by an outfit that weathered a recession of Helloween/Stratovarius oriented power metal over the past several years. But anyone who enjoys the power metal put out from the cold land separating Sweden from Russia, be it the softer sort out of Stratovarius or the heavier counterpart in Kiuas, “Vendetta” is definitely a keeper.