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Onward and upward. - 69%

AnalogKid, April 13th, 2014

Going backwards through a band’s discography can definitely be a tricky thing, but it certainly has its merits. If anything, I happen to find it even easier to note a band’s changes when moving back in time, especially the improvements that have been made. At first, my listens to Under The Sign Of Will resulted in little more than mild warmth, and one of the biggest items that one must know about the band in general is that it’s definitely not the most immediately gripping metal you’re going to hear. If D.R.E.A.M.S takes a bit of work to get hooked on, this is even more so the case for Under The Sign Of Will.

When getting into Manticora, I developed a listening method that helped me enjoy the music immensely, and I’ve found that applying this same system to Eternal Flight has yielded similarly effective results. Despite the two bands sounding nothing alike, neither embraces the hooky chorus that is so dominant in power metal. Therefore, a listener searching primarily for a strong vocal melody to cling to may find themselves getting lost and confused very quickly. This has nothing to do with Gerard Fois being a poor singer at all, but rather just a different musical dynamic. The guitar work on this album is very good and quite easy to get into, and so it is this (and often the drumming) that I recommend paying attention to and getting hooked on immediately, while placing the vocals second. Naturally, this won’t work for every listener, and therefore some just won’t enjoy this, but many, especially prog fans, may find it more interesting than your garden-variety power metal.

Under The Sign Of Will is an engaging listen, then, if not as much so as the band’s later work. It is also, however, a heavier, harder, and more constant album. Lyrically, it has the same tendencies, emphasizing self-empowerment and the somewhat grim condition of humanity’s emotional and social state, while at the same time minimizing the dreamy, serene atmosphere found on D.R.E.A.M.S. In fact, “Friends” is probably the only consistently slower song that could pass as a ballad. This is just as well, because while it’s one of the most accessible tracks here, I find it to be least exciting (there’s no ripping guitar to keep me interested). The finest songs include opener “The Edge Of Fire”, the longer and fairly dynamic “Ghost (With A Different Soul)”, the smoking “Deaf, Dumb, And Blind”, and my personal favorite, “Next Ones On The List”. For a band that doesn’t abide by the typical power metal guitar formula that I love so much, Christophe Offredi and Chris Stollen sure have a knack for keeping my interest, and have quite a playground to go nuts in. While solos may not seem particularly impressive, have a concentrated listen through a few of the songs and realize just how entertaining this rhythm and lead work is. In this way at least, I think that Under The Sign Of Will excels and possibly passes up the album that follows it.

Because of the somewhat dense atmosphere and unique approach to progressive power metal, I can’t recommend this album to just anybody, and I also do not think that it is the best starting point for Eternal Flight’s music. However, it is most certainly rewarding for fans of the band, and those interested in spicing up either their prog or power listening.

Original review written for Black Wind Metal