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Different, almost experimental in some ways - 60%

TrooperOfSteel, June 14th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Massacre Records

Another year has gone by and surprise surprise, German power metal band Metalium have released another CD. All these guys seem to do is churn out CD after CD almost every year. Their latest is their 7th full-length, entitled ‘Incubus-Chapter Seven’. This is Metalium’s 4th release in 5 years, which is quite impressive.

Enjoying their previous few releases ‘Nothing To Undo’ and ‘Demons Of Insanity’, hopefully this new CD will bring Metalium back to their best efforts of their first 3 CDs. Their fans too, who have jumped on and off their bandwagon over recent years, are also hoping for a return to better form. While I personally enjoyed ‘Nothing To Undo’, it received mixed reviews and emotions around the globe. But Metalium seem determined to their work, thus the many CDs in a short time frame.

So, how does ‘Incubus-Chapter Seven’ stack up? My first reaction is to say... different, almost experimental in some ways. Quite different to what they have normally done in the past, but they still have their trademark sound infused throughout. Remaining in their songs are the “band shouting” choruses, including the high-pitched wails of vocalist Henning Basse; double-bass pummeling and ripping shreds, rips and solos. So what is so different you ask? Their songwriting. These songs are not your typical Metalium songs, fast and furious with melodic choruses from start to finish. Metalium have slowed down their pace in a great deal of their songs, electing for mid-paced tracks with a diverse sound. On some songs, there is a groove feel, something I’ve never heard on a Metalium CD before. Of course there are a handful of your typical sounding Metalium tracks, but unfortunately this change seems to be missing something.

Henning Basse also, seems to be singing slightly differently. The first few spins, it was quite noticeable. Possibly due to the songwriting changes, but there is something definitely amiss with his voice on this release. He struggles a tad on a few of the really high notes, and they don’t seem as clear or crisp as on previous CDs. But as always, Basse gives his all and overall he has again done a good job.

With the songs being so different from one another, it was hard to work out what Metalium are actually trying to do with this CD. Stuck with what direction they are heading towards, it shows with the diversity of the songs on the release. After a 2+ minute intro, the opening song kicks in (“Resurrection”) and we hear the typical, trademark Metalium sound; fast guitars, fast riffing and double bass. Suddenly all that stops and the verse is very slow. It doesn’t pick up again until the chorus where again it sounds pretty typical. It’s not the strongest song to start with and it never really grabs you. The same applies to the 2nd track, “Gates”. Here is the first of the groove-filled songs on the CD. The song isn’t too bad, but it just has a peculiar structure and the chorus is rather forgettable. The title track is next and after hearing the brooding, dark and eerie build up, I was expecting something grand. Basse, trying his best to sound like “Ripper” Owens, raspy and dark, the song unfortunately never gets out of first gear. The song prods along in the same brooding slow pace for the entire 6:57. It may have sounded good if it were Iced Earth, but not Metalium.

The experimental sounds continue until we get to “Never Die”, which is typical Metalium through and through and the best track on the CD thus far. Fast riffs and an excellent solo in the middle. The next 3 tracks are a mix of typical Metalium crossed with their new style (“At Armageddon”, “Sanity” and “Meet Your Maker”), which all sound pretty good, particularly “Sanity”. The CD ends on a high, however, with the final song “Hellfire”. It’s probably the most groove-sounding track on the CD, but it has an awesome beat/riff combo that just gets your head nodding. Sounding very 80s, the mid-paced galloper has a great chorus and becomes one of the best songs on the CD.

Overall, the CD is very up and down and it’s hard to work out what they are actually trying to do with such a different range of songwriting throughout. The songs are good but there is really nothing memorable, except for “Hellfire”, “Sanity” and “Never Die”. If Metalium are finally trying to change their recent traditional sound that has stuck with them since ‘Chapter Four’, then this is a good step for them. Although it was very surprising and almost shocking to hear Metalium’s different sound on ‘Incubus’, I respect what they have done and hope that it continues with their next CD. But in the end, for the fans and metal lovers around the world, it will come down to this widely used cliché: You’ll either love it or hate it.

Originally written for (2008)

Modern mediocrity. - 61%

hells_unicorn, November 30th, 2008

I’d been trying to wrap my head around exactly where Metalium started to go wrong, because the decline that followed “As One” was pretty sizable, and the difference in the music was definitely noticeable right from the first riff of “Demons Of Insanity”. After listening to the album before this one “Nothing To Undo”, I think I began to understand what the problem was. Essentially Lars and company have simply been running out of ideas and flying on autopilot, and trying to compensate by doing precisely what Seven Witches has been doing lately, and that is overdoing the production and morphing their guitar tone into some twisted half breed offspring of Black Label Society and “Volume 4” era Black Sabbath, which is not a good idea for a band that plays fast paced metal.

In most respects “Incubus” is an improvement over the last album, but not really a very big one. They’ve fixed the clunking drum sound and cleaned up the bass a little bit, but basically the band is still confused as to whether they are a power metal band or some sort of doom/heavy metal hybrid who occasionally plays fast. They don’t pull off the slow stuff very well, especially when they have all but flooded the background with low end keyboard drones like on the title track, which muddies up an already blurry bottom section of the arrangement and all but kills the edge that the guitars would otherwise have.

Henning Basse is spending a little too much time trying to imitate Eric Adams’ gravely screams, which he does not do well, and not enough concentrating on his strength which is sailing in the upper stratosphere and rivaling Dan Heiman’s triumphant melodies. “Take Me Higher” and “Gates” are perfect examples of him spending way too much time trying to sound like a tough guy instead of a power metal impresario. But too be fair, when the songs are faster he does tend to stay a little closer to his element, particularly on “Meet Your Maker”, which is stylistically the closest thing on here too their pre-“Demons Of Insanity” era.

In general, this album does a lot better when its not plodding in slow territory and trying to act like a real bad version of Helloween’s “The Dark Ride”, an album that is already being imitated way too much. If you stick to the speed metal songs like “Resurrection”, “Never Die”, “At Armageddon” and a couple of others (including the aforementioned “Meet Your Makes”) you’ll hear an album that is occasionally tainted by overproduction, but that otherwise seem to be getting back to the Judas Priest meets Saxon basics that these guys were founded upon.

This is about the same grade as albums like Seven Witches offering “Deadly Sins” and a few other middle of the road modern power metal albums. The band seems to be repeating themselves a bit now, and unfortunately not maintaining the important aspects of their sound in the process. Stick to the first four albums, and if you’re budget is limited, the first two albums, but this is material that is only fit for bargain bin fishers, not for someone who wants the majesty that made the power metal of the 80s and late 90s so amazing.