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In Memory of a Fallen Gladiator - 86%

bayern, January 1st, 2022

Back into the arena, with gloomy deliberation… gloomy cause the band lost their guitarist untimely, the gifted axeman Ron Konjicija, in 2019 to diabetic coma. Not surprisingly, the lyrical content isn’t the brightest one out there, it’s a world of horror we’re staring at, this collection of dark hymns graced by the soaring passionate vocals of Juan Ricardo for the last time, as the man has departed this camp in order to have more time for his other involvements (Wretch, Ritual, Sunless Sky, etc.).

This is material composed earlier, actually, and can be viewed the last creative legacy of Konjicija, his comrades having postponed the album release due to the man’s sad passing away. His effective intricate style is the centrepoint of this opus once again, the staple classic prog/tech-power/thrash delivery known from the guys’ earlier output materializing on the formidable dramatic title-track, a diverse eventful saga with nice intricate arrangements, the imposing heavy march instigated on “Dark Arena” a potent albeit tenebrous occurrence. Brighter epic tones rise on the more optimistic “Annunaki Arise”, but the steel tech-thrash rhythms of “Damnation Within” cancel the more melodic clout, the setting reaching a sizzling point on the valiant galloper “Bite the Bullet”. Bullets, bitten or otherwise, keep flying afterwards with “Sacred Rite” a more immediate speed metal anthem, the guys pouring more brooding seismic drama on the pathos-inducing “Destiny Bridge”, the anti-climactic pensive lyricism of “Abandoned” serving a fitting downbeat finale.

It’s really good to hear/see that the remaining gladiators are willing to carry on, this effort another sure-handed entry into their not very voluminous catalogue, the complex ambitious approach from their older works pretty much intact. As this is still a Konjicija showdown through and through, the lofty musicianship displayed all over isn’t a surprise, and the fans can only hope that the band will be able to find an able replacement for him in the months to come, regardless of how difficult it may turn out. Dark arenas, worlds of horror… not the most optimistic picture spread before this team; but the gladiators’ path has never been easy… to rise with dignity and to keep marching, both for themselves and for their fallen comrades... R.I.P.