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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.