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Dual guitar perfection. - 94%

Vortiene, May 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Metal Mind Productions (Limited edition, Digipak)

In the first 15 years of power metal releases, almost nothing in the genre comes close to the cohesiveness and absolute beauty of the dual guitar leads on this album. Henk Van der Laars just unloads on every single track on this album, with ridiculously memorable dual lead guitarwork, some of the most pristine sounding hooks in the genre. Elegy's subsequent albums with Henk are also quite good, but they don't approach the multitude of dual guitar riffs found in this album. Don't get me wrong, it's not like an Yngwie album in which it's a feverishly extensive array of guitarwork prowess, so dense and constant it is exhausting to listen to. Quite the opposite. The guitarwork on this album is so well-composed and concise that it completely carries the album to be much more entertaining than it really should be; the almost perfectly placed riffs just driving everything higher.

Seriously, it's instantly apparent in the first few seconds of track 1, The Grand Change, that you'll be getting great dual guitar leads. The intros on this album are monumental, I'm No Fool's opening solo is just so memorable. It's no wonder this album went over quite well in a guitarwork-thirsty Japan back in 1993, when both Yngwie and X Japan were in the height of their fame.

Now I say the guitarwork is the main attraction of this album, but the performances overall are great. Hovinga gives a more modest vocal performance here than Elegy's next two albums, and I think this album better suits his vocal abilities. The ballad-esque slower songs don't feel like cheesy neutered love-songs here―which were a prevalent on their next album, and really don't suit Hovinga's shrill voice. Even the slower songs (Take My Love, Labyrinth of Dreams) on this album are developed into powerful pounding tracks by the prominent guitarwork. Have I mentioned how I can't help doing some air guitar as soon as Powergames comes on? The intro riff is also amazing on there as well.
By the way, you'll actually hear the bass guitar on this album, I thought I should mention that. It's quite nice to actually hear the basswork.

The lyrics are sufficient. They have wide ranging topics, but are reasonably well written. The Grand Change is a call to action to reject conformism. Powergames is about needless power struggles between nations. Then we've got a bunch of other songs about relationships like the aforementioned I'm No Fool. Not exactly the most interesting lyrical direction in the case of these songs, but they are delivered in such a catchy way along with such great guitarwork, that really, you'll be singing along anyway.

There's a twinge of disorderliness on the album. It was Elegy's first album after all. When you listen to the dual guitar riffs for example, sometimes one of the guitars plays a harmonized note slightly after the other guitar. The drums sometimes have a bit of timing-offset. Things aren't synchronized to absolute perfection. I think this actually is a positive for the album, it feels very organic in that manner. It lends to the feeling that Henk and the rest of Elegy could just sit down and blast out these amazing tracks like it was nothing on the first go. I love that.

When it comes together―the audible bass, the two guitars playing riffs together, the pounding drums, Hovinga's harmonized vocals, the fairly thoughtful lyrics, and a bit of synth for atmosphere―the album sounds great. They're a set of songs in which we hear great vocals between absolutely amazing guitarwork, resulting in an album that shines throughout. The great vocals serve as a bit of offset to keep you thirsting for the next amazing riff. This is how you write a memorable guitar-focused album.

First review? WTF? - 89%

failsafeman, February 11th, 2005

I can't believe how unknown this band is, it SHOULD have a massive following like Dream Theater. I mean, these guys are fucking PIONEERS of prog metal in general. Let me explain their soud a little: take Images and Words ear Dream Theater, remove the keyboards a replace them with a second guitar, and add in some power metal influences. NOW remember that this album came out in 1992, which is the same year Images and Words came out. Another thing that makes this amazing is that the singer, Eduard Hovinga, reminds one of none other than James LaBrie. He's not a clone, but the similarities are there.

Anyway, this album is chock full of crazy guitar antics, in the form of both insane solos and some nice meaty riffs. I wouldn't say that the stuff they do could be classified as wankery, but they definitely toe the line at some points, especially during the two instrumentals. Fortunately, the songs don't meander through meaningless masturbatory instrumental parts like later-period DT, but manage to cram in plenty of impressive chops into reasonable song lengths. Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that these songs are usually quite fast, and they rarely slow down, rarely dropping below the faster side of midpaced.

The guitars are excellent, provided by the talented Henk Laars and Arno Van Brussel. The riffs are good, fast, and the solos are great and even faster. They also do cool unison solos which kick much ass. But don't worry about them getting at all top-heavy, for every good solo, there are easily two good riffs. A definite trademark of this band are the stop-start parts, which defnitely add something (no, this isn't lame Pantera-style "Walk" crap).

The vocals, as I've said before, bear a resemblence to James LaBrie, but Eduard Hovinga usually sings higher than LaBrie, and though I'm not 100% sure, I'd say he's got a bigger range too. His voice isn't as powerful as it could be, but he suits the music just fine, and he's definitely capable. He frequently makes use of multi-tracking for choruses and such, and while it doesn't come close to John Arch's level of awesomeness, it still works, and is quite well-done in its own right. The lyrics are a little cheesy, and are most often "rock" type lyrics, dealing with borken hearts and love and stuff. They're usually pretty straightforward, at least compared to DT, but don't really get me going. "The sound of a bro-oo-oken heart"-chorus is quite cheesy, but it's a good song otherwise, so it's forgivable. I don't care much about lyrics anyway.

The drums are good, and tempo- and time-signature-changes abound, and again the stop-start thing is well orchestrated. Serge Meeuwsen varies quite a lot, and uses some nice double-bass in parts, but doesn't overuse anything. He's talented, but not too much of a show-off, which in a prog band is nice.

The bass: well, thanks to the production, you can't hear it too much, which is a shame, because when you can, Martin Helmantel is usually doing something cool. During the solos, he's audible, and displays prowess, but during the riffs, he usually gets buried. Oh well.

The production could be better, but for an underground power/prog band out of the Netherlands, it could be a LOT worse too. The lower end is kind of muffled, with the bass and drums suffering, but the guitars and vocals are nice and up-front. Like I said, it could be better, but it's not really anything to complain about considering how much worse it could be.

Overall, this is a great album, that got totally overlooked (most likely thanks to being from the Netherlands). Really, these guys deserve a share of all the ridiculous amounts of success and acclaim that Dream Theater's been getting, and though I haven't heard any of their later stuff, I'll definitely be checking it out. Their older material might be hard to find, but I picked this album up pretty cheap used in Berlin. Anyway, if you like power/prog metal, and are willing to put up with some kind of sappy lyrics, you'll enjoy this album. It took me a while to get into it, but now I love it.