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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