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Potential Undiminished - 83%

AnalogKid, August 18th, 2013

Let’s face it, the French are wildly unpredictable when it comes to metal. Even a label of “power metal” will get you everything from Nightmare to Manigance to Heavenly to Wildpath, and beyond. Anyways, receiving Eternal Flight’s 2011 release, Diminished Reality, Elegies, And Mysteries was an exciting step into the unknown for me.

Little to anyone’s surprise, Eternal Flight manage to sound little or nothing like any of the more popular French power metal bands that I’ve already name-dropped, and are rather singular indeed. Blending mid-paced, pared-back power metal with some occasional progressive elements, very solid production, and some excellent clutch rhythm guitar playing and drumwork, Eternal Flight wowed me a bit with the sheer variety that they roll out on Diminished Reality…. Combine these elements with the smooth tenor of Gérard Fois, and I was taken aback and, in truth, somewhat captivated.

The first thing that one ought to understand about Eternal Flight, at least on this, their latest album, is that the band utilizes a rich, if understated, harmonic landscape that abounds in subtlety. Even though rhythms and melodies may seem simplistic, little twists present themselves frequently, and quite often songs and melodies meander off in directions that I’d never have expected. “Fantasea”, with it’s middle narration section, as well as the chorus: “Sail on the sea of your wild imagination”, exemplifies this behavior.

Background vocal supplements, such as those heard during the introduction of opener “Release To Unreal”, provide a great atmospheric boost, as do the major/minor shifts (often to minor during the chorus). Be warned: if you’re looking for the archetypical, slayingly melodic power metal chorus, you shan’t find it here. In fact, upon first listen, I didn’t care for the majority of this album overly much. After a couple more spins however, the band’s approach began to grow on me, until I finally became quite taken with it. I remember being impressed by the digipak, artwork, and lyricism inside when I received the album, saying to a fellow Black Wind writer “I’m either going to love this, or be extremely disappointed”. Well it seems I willed myself to like it so much that I’ve achieved this end, much to my (and I’m sure the band’s) delight.

Not that this album is the picture of perfection: I find myself easing off borderline musical nirvana during the more straight-ahead “Freedom Is My Race”, and am routinely a bit crestfallen when I get to it. However, the dark stomp of “Nightmare King” is a welcome return to form, and it is here that I first decided that Eternal Flight sounds, at times, like a less dense and more atmospheric version of Manticora (and there is nothing whatsoever wrong about that, for anyone that knows of my dark power metal obsession). Only instead of a writhing tentacular morass, (yes, that’s how I think of Manticora), Eternal Flight’s sound runs more towards a sometimes gloomy, sometimes dreamy fen of mists and shadows. The band’s slower songs, such as “Firedancer” and “Black Sun”, do tend to wear on a bit at times (though I do enjoy the former), and I can understand the complaint that some power metal fans may aim at Diminished Reality…: that of being limp or unenergetic. However, the argument of sounding redundant holds no weight here. The point at which I felt this was going to happen was at the beginning of “The Meeting”. At first, this song may sound like a half-baked continuation of the already so-so “Black Sun”, but everything goes to hell around the two-minute mark, and things remain interesting for the remainder of the song.

So, the French have given me the sublime symphonic grandeur of Wildpath, the ripping intensity of Nightmare, the glorious power metal majesty of Heavenly, and now the subtly complex strains of Eternal Flight. This heretofore unheard-of band has made me a near-instant fan, but I recommend this album with caution. Once again I spell out: this may seem simplistic, it may seem boring, and it may not seem terribly melodic. However, if you enjoy a good bout of challenging power/prog that takes its time working up to a whirling maelstrom of intensity, you may well enjoy Diminished Reality, Elegies, And Mysteries to the same extent as I.

Original review written for Black Wind Metal