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A rage to set the whole universe ablaze. - 98%

hells_unicorn, June 12th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, WormHoleDeath

Occasionally an album comes along that so purely embodies the spirit of its style that it barrels over the listener like an enraged, demonic/alien berserker during a meteor storm. This is the sort of an album that one would expect to come from a known quantity that has perfected their craft over a few albums, and maybe even an occasional exception being found with a debut fluke of sorts, but Norway's Guardians Of Time don't really fit into either category. They've been around for the better part of two decades and half three rock solid albums to their credit, yet they have largely been relegated to the fringes, not so much for any inaccessibility in their sound or a lack of talent, but more so due to an accident of timing mixed with a finicky audience. In their respective niche within the power metal style they have evolved a bit, starting as a prototypical all fast and catchy, all the time act with their debut Edge Of Tomorrow (fitting in nicely with the general trend of power metal circa 2001, but excelling at it better than most), and cycling through a two album concept series that saw them moderating the speed factor and later mixing in some slight melodeath and metalcore tendencies.

However, with the release of Rage And Fire, this band finds themselves getting back to basics, largely by revisiting their earlier selves and introducing a darker and heavier canvass that is somewhat reminiscent of Sinbreed and Mystic Prophecy. A fair amount of this can be credited to the mixing job provided by Fredrik Nordström, who has been a force to be reckoned with in power metal and melodic death circles for quite some time, but the foundation upon this album's glorious sound is the exact same winning formula that made Edge Of Tomorrow a spellbinding experience. The melodic contour and driving feel of this album is generally common to their entire repertoire, but is so well harnessed that it dwarfs everything the band has accomplished. It is generally fast and catchy, but also forbidding and aggressive, all the while being a fairly easy to follow collection of songs featuring the usual tricks of the trade, including flashy and complex guitar solos breaks reminiscent of early 2000s shred fiestas out of Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray) and Nils Norberg (Nocturnal Rites), and a vocal performance out of Bernt Fjellstad that spends most of its time in the upper stratosphere, but occasionally invokes a deeper character that's a bit less common in the style.

Not one to abandon the traditional pomp and grandeur of the power metal style, this album does supply a few epic elements to complement its mostly barbaric demeanor. The symphonic instrumental that incites this inferno "Praeludium in Ferrum Pectore" has some obvious cinematic film score tendencies to it that would definitely fit into a war film or a high fantasy/Sci-Fi epic, and segues perfectly into the bombastic first metallic blow of "Iron Heart". This song has all the makings of an instant power metal classic from the unforgettable back and forth vocals of the chorus, to the continual orchestral presence and pummeling battery of the rhythm section. Things take on a down tempo, grooving character with a greater emphasis on heaviness and a Mid-Eastern feel on "Empire", conjuring up vivid visuals of an ancient empire from thousands of year ago and coming the closest to a ballad on this unrelenting speeder of an album. Interestingly enough, the further this album goes, the faster and more vicious it becomes, dealing out high octane celebrations of power and fury in "Save Me", "Tomorrow Never Comes", "Primevil", and then landing on a monster of a closing title song in "Rage And Fire", which spends most of its time in the faster extremities of speedy power metal before launching into a massive blast beat section that dominates the closing moments of the song, breaking with what some would call power metal tradition a bit.

It is still a bit early in the year, but what Guardians Of Time have managed here is definitely album of the year material, both for their respective style and even in a broader metal context. It's actually a bit odd in that anyone that has followed this band to any extent will recognize who this is, and yet this isn't really the same band, it just crosses the boundary into a whole new territory. It finds itself going back to the earlier days of power metal in much the same respect that the recent outing by Emerald Sun did in terms of keeping things fast and catchy, but it doesn't have an outright retro flavor the way Metal Dome does, and is definitely much heavier. The only strike against this album is that it's all but fully one-dimensional, bereft of any nuance and hitting the listener over the head with a spiked club rather than coaxing his guard down with subtle intrigues, but it works so well that one finds himself not caring for anything it may lack in variety. If this album doesn't gain Guardians Of Time some greater degree of recognition in the power metal world, it will say more about what said scene has come to than anything regarding this band.