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Something a bit different. - 93%

hells_unicorn, September 30th, 2006

Germany has been at the forefront of many musical Renaissances of sorts, producing such significant historical composers as J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelsson, Bruckner and Strauss. In more recent years, they produced such pioneering metal outfits as Helloween, Accept, Freedom Call, Blind Guardian, and many others. Human Fortress pretty much represents a sort of outlier amongst the various 2nd tier of the power/epic metal rebirth of the late 90s. "Lord of Earth and Heaven's Heir" represents the beginning of what will hopefully be a long career for these six Hannover residents.

Unlike bands such as Freedom Call and Gamma Ray, Human Fortress does not live mostly by speed. They do have some extremely fast tracks such as "Divine Astronony" and "Light Beyond Horizon", and drummer Apostolos Zaios ranks among my top 10 favorites for the genre. But they have a solid collection of more mid-tempo rockers such as "Black Age Toil" and "A stroke of Fate", although "Amberdawn'' takes my pick for the most exciting mid-tempo rocker due to the catchy organ part and Torsten Wolf's insanely dramatic guitar solo.

Although these guys do take alot of influences from the pre-modern era of music, particularly the Renaissance, they do not go the dense symphonic route that bands like Dark Moor and Rhapsody go. Dirk Marquard's keyboard parts are quite charming, but they give the feel of a smaller ensemble that one would observe at the dinner party. His harp/oboe sounds on the title track, his piano work on "Forgive and Forget", his synth lead work on "The Dragon's Lair" and his organ work on "Amberdawn are some of the highlights of this album.

One rather interesting bonus on this album is the bass playing of Pablo Tammen, which is highly active. His raunchy tone is a tiny bit reminiscent of Steve Harris, although his style focuses more on speed and less on two and three note chord hits. "Light Beyond Horizon", "Little Flame" and "Damned to Bedlam" feature some of Pablo's more active bass work.

Although the musicians in this fold are highly skilled at what they do, the true face of this band and the reason why they stand above many of the others is vocalist Jioti Parcharidis. This guy has a very powerful voice, yet somehow when he sings it almost sounds like there is an ominous whisper behind the various high end wails. Stand out vocal performances on this album include "Black Age Toil", "A Stroke of Fate", "Amberdawn", and "Little Flame". Although many complain about "Forgive and Forget", I don't particularly find anything wrong with this rather somber ballad, and it does showcase Jioti's lower range quite well.

In conclusion, this is a great album loaded with treats for fans of power metal, and also some appeal towards the traditional crowd, particularly in the slower tracks. There isn't really a bad song on here. This comes highly recommended from someone who himself regularly listens to it, though it does occasionally get shelved for new releases.