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An incredible atmospheric masterpiece - 100%

The Clansman 95, June 29th, 2020

Lost Horizon's "A Flame to the Ground Beneath" is one of those albums that not only stand as the best outputs of their respective subgenre, but also represent a unique and still unmatched experience that no other musician has ever been able to repeat. I don't know if the term "atmospheric power metal" has ever been used before, but if someone asked me to describe the music contained in this 53-minutes musical journey in a few words, that's the best term that could come to my mind.

The music on "A Flame to the Ground Beneath", indeed, is obviously power metal at the core, but the approach of the band to songwriting is something I haven't had the pleasure to witness anywhere else. A dense, transcendental and mystic atmosphere permeates the whole record, granted by thick keyboard layers and synths that often complement the compositions also through intriguing arrangements; the guitars don't take the front spot, although they are perfectly audible: the production is indeed meant to complement and the emphasize this whole atmospheric take of the band on power metal, and thus every instrument results perfectly discernible in the mix, without ever standing above the others, while enveloped in the fluid auditory lake made up by the keyboards.

The drumming is extremely precise and features solid double bass rhytms, while the bass work is simply outstanding: usually it plays at once with the drums, emphasizing the whole rhytm section, but each time it's given the occasion to shine it enriches the composition with complex licks and arrangements. This results evident throughout each song of the album, but particularly in "Again Will the Fire Burn", "Cry of a Restless Soul" and especially "Think Not Forever". The spicy bass lines on "A Flame to the Ground Beneath" sure are a joy to the ears, but the guitar work is no less! Usually the riffs rely on full-bodied chord progressions and gallops, that allow the keyboards to shine the most, letting the sense of the atmosphere intact; nonetheless, melody is an equally important component of the guitar playing of Lost Horizon, thus proving the clear Gothenburg origin of the band members.

The leads space indeed from complex, evoking and emotional melodies to melodic yet technical solos, and are characterized by a great stress on the use of the vibrato technique and artificial harmonics: this unique style is meant to make every single note as powerful and relevant as possible, valorising it instead of simply flooding the listener with a cascade of sounds, thus perfectly serving the whole atmospheric purpose I mentioned earlier. Finally, it's impossible not to point out the astonishing talent of vocalist Daniel Heiman, whose unearthly vocal range, accompanied by his crystalline yet badass timbre and superb vocal technique, resulted in an emotional, superb interpretation that has made the history of the genre, representing the final guarantee about the outstanding quality of this musical product.

The whole platter is composed of nine tracks, three of which are short synth instrumentals that are meant to serve as intro/outro and interlude to the actual songs, that are generally far over the five-minutes mark, with the sole exception of "Again Will the Fire Burn". The songs' structure is definitely complex and unconventional, and especially the vocal arrangements are really studied and varied; the "stanza-prechorus-stanza-repeat" structure is carefully avoided, in favour of a more progressive/atmospheric approach. I recommend listening to the whole album, since each song is unique in its own way, and all of them are top-notch material, although a special mention goes to the incredible epic "Highlander (The One)'', a 12-minutes journey capable of inspiring the deepest and most intense feelings one could ever get while listening to this kind of music. A final mention goes to the excellent lyrics, that are extremely deep and far more refined than the average power metal band, mainly dealing with themes of truth, self-empowerment, will to power and self-confidence, thus being the final icing on the cake of an already perfect album.

Only time will tell if Lost Horizon will return, breaking the silence that followed the departure of Heiman and Olsson in 2004; for now, I suggest you to listen to this epic journey in the world of spiritual enlightenment and inner strength, and to be faithful: remember that the force of will can make even the impossible possible.