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Another roaring echo from the past. - 87%

hells_unicorn, July 27th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, Inverse Records

One could liken the metal community to being like the hydra of ancient Greek mythology, and the bands could be seen as its various heads, for it seems that whenever one is cut off, two more rise in its place. Naturally this isn't always the way things happen when a band calls it quits, but with rare exceptions, music isn't something that one just up and quits, let alone metal music. In the particular case of Finland's now long defunct power metal act and Limb Music alumni Olympos Mons, the end had seemingly come too soon. But it only really came to an end for founding member and guitarist Jari Sundström, the only principle member of the fold whose career has seemingly ended at present. Vocalist Ian Highhill and bassist Krister Lundell would all but instantly find themselves in the formidable Astralion, whereas drummer Mikko Sepponen, who already had an ongoing spot in the more progressively geared Adamantra, opted to try taking his talents to a similar project to his former power metal outlet Olympos Mons in Epicrenel.

Though all of the alumni of Olympos Mons that opted to soldier on took a recognizable piece of their former band with them to their newer projects, Epicrenel is a bit closer in style and character to said band than Astralion, avoiding the comical Helloween-like trappings and super-speed consonance of Stratovarius for something a bit more epic and grandiose. Indeed, The Crystal Throne proves to be a inspired offering in legendary storytelling with a somewhat symphonic gloss that has all the makings of a super-group, in no small part due to musicians from such established acts as Amberian Dawn, Thaurorod and Adagio contributing to the resulting sound. Indeed, the technical chops and hard hitting orchestral elements from the keyboards find this album in somewhat similar territory to Thaurorod's astounding sophomore effort from the same year Anteinferno and the Symphony X leaning technicality and heaviness of Adagio's Archangels In Black, which is mostly likely where Olympos Mons was trying to go on their two albums but didn't due to limitations in Sundström's guitar chops.

For the most part, this album opts for a fairly conventional take on power metal from the Tolkien high fantasy meets Finnish metallic trappings variety. The songs tend to be fast and chorus-oriented, not all the much of a far-cry from late 80s Helloween, but with a symphonic edge that's not quite as bombastic and pompous as Rhapsody Of Fire, but leans in that direction. Certain faster paced cruisers like "Defenders Of The Crown" and "Guarding Fellhound" almost seem like direct throwbacks to Olympos Mons' Conquistador, going a bit heavy on Baroque themes but also having fairly triumphant to almost happy sounding choruses, but are sugared up with greater guitar and keyboard gymnastics. On the darker side of things are "Walls Of The Cave" and "Fantom's Grove", which go in a bit more of a Adagio direction with church organ-driven creepiness and a heavier, groovier riff set that's pretty close to something Michael Romeo might have done prior to V: The New Mythology. But surprisingly enough, the funnest part of this album is when things go into unapologetic, old school, Maiden-inspired galloping goodness like on the shred happy instrumental "Skyride" and the epic charge into metallic glory "Where Kingdoms Fall".

This is one of those albums that proves that you can't have too much of a good thing, as it generally plays it safe in terms of stylistic trappings, and only really goes out on a limb by incorporating a a greater degree of technical extravagance. It's was almost inevitable that vocalist Christian Palin would be tapped to take over the vocal reigns of Magic Kingdom, as guitarist Emil Pohjalainen is about as flashy as Dushan Petrossi, though he doesn't look a lot like Malmsteen did in the 80s like Dushan has while sounding like him, and much of the time Palin actually sounds close to how Ian Highhill did back during his tenure with Olympos Mons. But for the most part, what is heard on here is highly similar to the sort of mostly fast and fun material heard out of Conquest and Thaurorod that builds off the Helloween and Malmsteen influences without ending up in the exaggerated world of Dragonforce, and also incorporates a slight bit of that Manowar inspired marching into battle element that separates the men from the boys. It's not quite as riveting as Astralion's output, but it does surpass the old Olympos Mons material while staying in the same basic style.

Less than the sum of its parts - 64%

AnalogKid, June 18th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, Inverse Records

One look at the borderline all-star cast for Epicrenel and I thought for sure that I was absolutely sold. Boasting talent shared with bands like Adamantra, Olympos Mons, Adagio, Thaurorod, and Amberian Dawn, the promise of The Crystal Throne looked immense, the artwork modest but attractive, and all publicity much less brazen and irritating than that for say, Gloryhammer. Distilling all of this talent however, we still have a fairly standard fantasy-oriented symphonic power metal album that needs a good deal of heft to stand out from the saturated scene. So, how does Epicrenel stack up?

Better than some might have thought, but worse than I had hoped. The shimmering cymbals, bombastic orchestral hits, triumphant synth horns, and quite reasonable atmospheric instrumental sections are all strong points. This was all well composed and very well executed, and certainly receives the highest of marks towards this album for me. Unfortunately, the guitar work, and particularly the rhythm lines, is rather redundant and uncreative, and draws back the rest of the album. Even the solos are fairly tame for the genre, and exceptional leads are precious few and far between (this is generally carried by the keyboard, which just doesn't have the same punch).

Similarly, while vocalist Christian Palin is allowed a number of hooky vocal choruses, he rarely stands out (and sometimes is barely even understandable) during verses. I’d even go so far as to say that he sounds bored at times – which is NOT the sense I want to get from my power metal. I was disappointed in his singing, especially after his work on Adagio’s excellent Archangels In Black.

High points on the album include the reasonably solid opener “To Cursed Lands Again”, the delightfully tangential “Walls Of The Cave” (the minor tonality and guitar work actually reminds me of a subterranean environment at times), the catchy “Guarding Fellhound”, and the anthemically high-flying “Skyride”, which succeeds in being an extremely good example of catchy instrumental power metal However, unexceptional tracks like “Fantom’s Grove”, and “In The Dungeon” only serve to slow down the momentum when it builds up. At least the better tracks are staggered throughout the album, resulting in no serious loss of attention.

When it comes down to it however, Epicrenel is no greater than the sum of its parts (and maybe even a little lesser than). This collaborative middle ground between a series of very good metal projects turns up a few great songs, and a moderately enjoyable work overall, but is, I think, destined to fade into the background behind many of its members’ other, more illustrious projects. The Crystal Throne is recommended for fans of fast-moving symphonic power metal and anyone interested in checking out a power metal project from members of any bands which I listed above. For many of us embedded in the genre however, this is likely to be another good, but ultimately rather routine romp through familiar grounds.

Original review written for Black Wind Metal

Epicrenel - The Crystal Throne - 88%

trollhammer666, March 11th, 2013
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, Inverse Records

Epicrenel. Epic would be an understatement of the century and renel, well, has no direct translation, but we won’t worry about that. I was completely swept off my feet when I heard this album. There is so much to look forward to with ten beautiful tracks, plus a free instrumental intro and outro for further enjoyment. Now, let us begin.

Every song on The Crystal Throne is packed with stellar riffs ranging from fast to fastest, explosive choruses that mind-melt you over and over again, wild Sonata Arctica keyboard solos, near-Dragonforce speed guitar solos that trade off with one another as if they are at war over the spotlight, chaotic bass solos that completely catch you off guard, and amazing intros and outros that set you up for what’s to come. Oh wait, there’s more! The singer sounds like he could be Tony Kakko’s (Sonata Arctica) brother or even twin and performs so well over the entirety of the album. The lyrics are very suiting to the instruments, being very adventure-based, which basically sums up the album. One hell of an adventure.

Aside from predictable song structures (being the only flaw I could find, but when is a power metal song not predictable anyways), they manage to pull it off track after track by incorporating something new into each song. I would say check out “To Cursed Lands Again”, where you can find a bit of everything from the album all summed up into one perfect song. “In the Dungeon” is my favourite with Kiuas-ish singing styles and riffs combined with the Legend of Zelda-inspired, haunting synths. As the song progresses, it feels almost as if you are progressing alongside further into ‘the dungeon’ and by the time the guitar and keyboard solos come around, you are in some sort of boss battle, and as they return to the main riff and chorus the song ends with a victorious outro, clarifying that your adventure in said dungeon is complete. The structure and composition of this album is absolutely breathtaking.

When I take a step away and play through my head the things that stuck from The Crystal Throne, I imagine the Sonata Arctica of old that we all fell in love with, the now near-defunct, but overlooked Kiuas, the beautiful instrumentals of Rhapsody before they became Rhapsody of Fire, and the overall feel and emotional power that Kamelot portrays. It’s like all these bands I fell in love with growing up having an orgy and Epicrenel is their spawn, this almighty, glowing and luminous love child. And my god, did they all do a wonderful job raising that child into this epic beast of a band it is today. I have an unlimited amount of praise for this album and I cannot wait for what’s next to come.