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Some improvements, some regression. - 77%

hells_unicorn, November 5th, 2007

Gaia Epicus has been quite apt at making a good first impression through their album art and CD booklet extras. Their debut “Satrap” featured a very auspicious explanation of the band’s name, the album’s name and the drive of the lyrical content. Initially I thought them a Gamma Ray clone due to the overt similarities between the subject matter of that album and Kai Hansen’s magnum opus “Somewhere Out in Space”. By contrast, “Symphony of Glory” opens the band up to late 80s Helloween clone accusations, and not merely because of the near over-comical album cover.

In many ways, this album sees the band making small improvements. Thomas Hansen’s voice shows a bit more versatility than before, the riffs see more development and the drum tracks have been cleaned up significantly. Joakim’s solos are a bit more memorable, owing to a greater sense of continuity and structure, while avoiding the temptation to throw in more notes than necessary. The keyboard role has been drastically reduced, eliminating the Stratovarius tendencies of the debut album, and mostly functions as a tasteful atmospheric device.

In spite of all this, the album suffers greatly from an over-indulgent sense of comedy and a poor track ordering. The opening 30 second clip is a distantly played performance of Julius Fučík’s “Entrance of the Gladiators”, which underscores a likely intentional irony in the album. While originally intended as a gallant and triumphant sounding march commemorating the grandeur of the Roman Empire, most of today’s listeners associate this composition with a circus, which may be a brilliant satirical criticism of the dual sense of comedy and majesty of the power metal genre.

Although one might consider this a brilliant way to preface yet another intellectually driven album, it is lost in the trilogy of sameness that follows. “Time and Space”, “Miracles” and “Seize the Day” listen okay individually, and the out-of-nowhere steel drum section in the second of the three showcases another ironic side of the album, much as was the case with Iron Fire’s little funky/bluesy section in “Rise of the Rainbow”. Unfortunately, the songs are just too similar to listen to one after the other, and by the end you begin to suspect you’re listening to an underground punk album.

“Hand of Fate” is a decent radio rocker, although the bass and drum alone parts where Hansen’s vocals are exposed a little too much drag the song down a little. “Wings of Freedom” is the first true power metal track on here, almost like a slightly less technical “Keepers of Time” from the debut. “Spanish Eyes” takes the cake for decent song destroyed by bad lyrics, the gooey romantic words clash way too much with the distorted riffs.

Surprisingly things really pick up afterwards and we get some material that surpasses what was put forth on the first album. Keyboard usage picks up in “No Release” and instrumental “Chamber of Secrets”, accompanied by some quality riffing and musical variety. Things finish off on a high note with two solid power metal epics “Be Thy Cross My Victory” and the album’s title track. The former has the best vocal performance out of Hansen yet, trading some high end screams with some dirtier sounds. The title track has some more vocally exposed sections, but they work fairly well. The best part of it all is the elongated middle section where the guitars take over completely, just classic Iron Maiden worship throughout.

There are some great moments on this album, but as a whole it comes across as musically confused. The songs and the words don’t match the wit that seems to be intended in the cover art. It may well be an unintended foreshadowing of the problems the band would have with their label, which all but made this album unavailable for mainstream consumption. If you like power metal this might be a worthwhile buy, especially Gamma Ray fans that want something in a similar style, but shop at under $10.

Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 18, 2008.