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ZERO POINTS ....... ZERO POINTS!!!!!!!11 - 70%

oneyoudontknow, March 21st, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent

hell_unicorn's metal tour presents ...

So, this would be hells_unicorn's latest release and it had been taken off the compost heap after being discarded or ignored for roughly two decades; at least this way his post in the Metal Archives forum can be read. Presumably it was already or at least partially rotten, with the obvious impact on the listener, not to mention a certain type of odour that would come with it. Thankfully the first year of the Coronavirus Sars-Cov-2 pandemic helped in this regard, because with the all too common and often mandatory mask wearing, the band did not have to fear any repercussions in this regard; there is also a clear indication on the cover artwork, with one of the spectral figures wearing a protection over nose and mouth. Sadly, this lack of consistency, the one on the right refuses to do so, will be met with an immediate and merciless cut of points; see the end of the review; note 1.

The first aspect that raises some eyebrows is the clickbait band name. Of course it is ominous. Why can't it be striking or grand or merciless? No, it has to be ominous. Woohohoohooho. And then there is the title of the the release: "The Elven Dream". Not an elven dream! No, it is THE Elven dream, as if there would be no other. Is it one shared by all of those tree huggers? Hardly good coffee talk in the morning then, because all these acorn dust sneezer can bicker about is always the same old dream, the same old images, the same old topic. To be frank, this appears to be hardly something to look forward to. No wonder the elves chose to live outside the realm of the "common" folks, because who in a sane mind would like to see this horror spread to other people. Stuff needs to be contained!

Up to this point of writing about Ominous Potpourri, the person responsible for these lines has not listened to a single second of their music and see how far we have come already!

No, it is not as one would imagine. It is not the grand introduction, it is not the great procession one might hope for, it is not how Ottorino Respighi envisioned it for the procession of Roman soldiers along a road; note 2. The March of the Elf King appears rather subdued and reduced in sound and style. Wyrdly, there is an odd marching like motif, whose rhythms are definitely at odds on how people might portrait this race. Where is the loftiness, where is the otherworldly atmosphere and impression that such an elf might create and bring upon spectators or bystanders? While the Roman would impress through their appearance and numbers, the Elfs would do this with a mystical kind of luminance and looks that is on some level simply incomprehensible. Or as another argument, remember how Gimli, son of Gloin, is mocked by the elves for the way he walks in the Lorien forest? In terms of the music it does not get any better after this. First some odd guitars, then some screams, then some really strange sounding keyboards, but this increase in intensity is even less able to reflect with what had been lain out before. How is this able to go along with the topic at hand?

But, maybe it would be unfair to judge the band like this, maybe there is a certain idea in how all has to progress in the first track, maybe it all will lead up to an explosion of metal, like Rhapsody has done it numerous times on their first albums for instance. Sadly, it does not. For reasons that are utterly incomprehensible the track succeeding the opener was composed in such a way as to throw the band back to where they started on the album. Back to square one. What is the purpose of the first track then anyway? An utterly pointless waste of time. Once these empty minutes are over, the band realizes that it is necessary to get on some kind of pathway and which is then followed for the rest of the album.

As should not come as a surprise in terms of hell_unicorn, the music on this album is in the style of some kind of power metal. Or to be more precise 90/early 2000s power metal. Stuff from the days in which *core influences and the like were negligible. This is what you get on the album. A lot of guitars, a lot of well written riffs and melodies, a lot of chorus stuff to sing to and a lot of energy in most of the tracks. A reviewer can basically drop a wide array of names and even though not all would meet the requirements to similarity, some part of it would still stick. Rhapsody, Helloween, Blind Guardian and the like can be pointed to as references. It is their intensity and vibe that can be found on this release. A relentless display of energy and consistency in the execution and presentation of power metal. The music and the tracks on "The Elven Dream" stick with you, they grab you and do not let go. If you just listen to this album, if you just want to have this and nothing else, if this is what matters to you, then you should stop reading here and buy the album. Without any doubt, the quality of the album is great. Most reviewers would merely look at this and score it accordingly; 80+ ... without a doubt.

So, why do we have a 70 points score there?

A bothersome part is the "Ayreon" influence. Of course this is an unfair argument, but it still needs be brought forth. It is difficult to thoroughly follow the band in what they try to present. It is a bit of a conundrum what is going on in the tracks. By looking at the lyrics, it becomes obvious that a certain amount of roles appear over the course of the album, but it is difficult get it by listening to the music alone. In some parts, when a female voice appears, this shift is apparent, while generally it remains hidden. The problem is that the expressions of the lyrics are too similar and lacks a representation of the roles. It is difficult to distinguish them. The vocals are by no means bad, but do these really "show and tell" what is going on in the tracks? Furthermore, the female vocals in Julianna (Queen of the Dark Star) are a bit bland and the bell in The Kingdom of Light is quite unnecessary. Also, "Arrows of Cronon" reminds me a bit too much on Rhapsody's "Rage of the Winter".

If you just take the music and if this type of music is your thing, then you will find no difficulty in enjoying this album. Those who like to take a closer look at things, might raise an eyebrow over certain elements or aspects. Yet, these can be ignored easily and why not be nice for once. Makes it easier to bash the next album to an unbelievable degree.


Note 1:
when the review had been originally crafted, it had been the idea to reduce some points in the end, but since the album is only "just good", it would have been unfair to cut the score down even more. Therefore, those following lines had been an initial idea that had been scraped later on; those reference(s) above have not been redone ... for reason of laziness.
- 10 points, because only one of the persons in the background wears a mask
- 10 points, because those dead people that have died show no blood.

Note 2:
see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pines_of_Rome
The Pines of the Appian Way (I pini della Via Appia, tempo di marcia)

Note 3:
A glance over the lyrics reveals that Latin had been used in several tracks. As the reviewer is familiar with this language, but was somewhat confused over the words and grammar, it appeared appropriate to consult a forum in this regard. The discussions revealed what had been anticipated in the first place: some errors were found in them. While these flaws might not be apparent to everyone, it is appropriate to bring this up in a review. Leaving this carelessness aside, a further problem arises: how does it fit into the concept of the album, whose concept deals with Elfs, Vikings and tree hugging? Hells_unicorn had his reasons, but it is his part to explain it and not the writer of these lines. From an outside perspective and from someone without some insights into the reasons, the choice might be confusing to say the least.

About as good as this style gets - 82%

Empyreal, March 11th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent

This should be an album I fucking hate. Despite my affinity for power metal, I always found the overtly fantasy-based, conceptual ones to be kind of lame at best and really irritating at worst – gaze upon the travesties that are Pathfinder and Twilight Force, good god. I like punchier, more modern sounds and ones that don’t steep themselves so deeply in Lord of the Rings style shit. It’s just a personal preference. But even I can’t deny something as good as The Elven Dream.

Ominous Glory has apparently been active in some form for around 20 years – so this isn’t so much a ‘retro’ thing as an actual band who was around at the same time as Rhapsody and Edguy and the rest were getting big back in the early 2000s. What sets this apart is the professionalism on display… there are actual quality riffs on this thing beneath all the pomp and bombast, and the vocalist is an 80s-style crooner wailing out great melodies. This is a long-ass album but it’s got a lot of cool, well thought out songs and ideas. “Eternal Destiny” is a cool opener, the title track is a solid proggy type of tune, “Julianna” is a darker tune with some crunchy riffs and dramatic multiple-singer performances. “Wayfaring Journeyman” is my favorite, though – a classic speedster in the Edguy “Babylon” mode with an infectious chorus.

What I’m saying is that it really just seems like they put effort into the songwriting. I guess at least a few of these guys have been tinkering with this music for years, so it’s not like they were crunched for time.

You could say this is too long, and it probably is – a few of the tracks tend to blend in with one another. But none of them are bad. Even the 10-minute band-self-titled song and the two ballads are good. And personally I think the fantasy themes are boring – I just don’t care about castles, elves and kings and shit like that. But hell, nerd culture is mainstream now and people eat this stuff up, so maybe others will be more amenable.

Even with all the things that should set this as something not of my tastes, it holds up pretty good… it’s like beholding a very lavishly constructed house. You kind of can’t help but be impressed. And if you’re one of these people who does fantasy LARP sessions this will probably be your new Bible.

Glory Rise! - 96%

Larry6990, February 7th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent

It's not often you come across a record that's been 20 years in the making. Hell, even Guns 'n' Roses managed less than that! Sometimes an album is a product of its time, sometimes it's timeless, and sometimes it's a weird amalgamation whose foundations were laid ages ago but then had layers of ensuing inspiration heaped on top in the intervening years. The Elven Dream, by American symphonic power metallers Ominous Glory, is some kind of bizarre hybrid of all three. The overall timbre reeks of early 2000s European power metal (as, indeed, that is when the project first came together), but as the years flew by, the band members' influences expanded along with the sub-genre itself. I thank the band for being so active on social media and keen to share the album's developmental process in immense detail. This is a special album for us at TMO, as the mainman and guitar wizard, Alistar Blackmane, is one of our dearly beloved staff members and I'm sure we're all very proud of him. Now that I've been thoroughly bribed, I can get on with praising the everloving shit out of this fucking masterpiece.

All the exterior signs that I would utterly adore this album are there in bold, italicized and goddamn underlined. The excellent band name in that beautiful font; the fantastical album title; the splendid artwork which tells so much story without hearing a single note; the epic song names; the high-fantasy narrative... and the overall length. Man, this is a big album. 15 tracks, 80 minutes. Daaamn! Even the intro and interlude are longer than your average Ramones song. Then again, if you're gonna promise yourself an album for 20 years, you'd better make sure you aim for quality and quantity. Ominous Glory have done exactly that with The Elven Dream. Considering this is an independent, unsigned outfit - one could not possibly have asked more from a symphonic power metal album. Sounding somewhere between Freedom Call, Gamma Ray and Gaia Epicus, the guys manage to keep these influences in mind whilst carving their own path through the genre.

Pressing the play button signals the commencement of quite an epic listening journey, best experienced whilst hiking a mountainous forest trail, with access to the lyrics to get the full effect of the incredibly well-realized characters in the story. Production standards are high, with the drums giving real bite underneath the edgy guitar tone. The programmed orchestra is well-mixed, never overpowering the metal, and the most frequent keyboard sound is a delightfully blary synth which calls to mind the joyful cheese of Gaia Epicus' Satrap. It's one of the best keyboard timbres I've ever heard and I could take so much more of it! The obligatory intro, "March Of The Elf King", throws a whole load of exposition at the listener and essentially drowns them in the grandiose atmosphere before an extensive power metal standard, "Eternal Destiny", blows them away with typically up-tempo gallops and a majestic chorus to die for. Even though there are at least 10 other tracks on this album worthy of such praise, this is the most likely candidate for one of my songs of the year.

Now that you've been settled into the world of The Elven Dream, it's time for Ominous Glory to throw everything and the kitchen sink right at your stupid fat face. The title-track is a progressively-tinged jewel with some fantastic vocals from Rek Anthony - whose gruff approach is absolutely spot-on, by the way. Anthony just kills it in general, conquering both melodious and menacing vocal lines with seemingly effortless control. He is supported by a cast of guest vocalists, including Sara Teets of MindMaze doing a sterling job on the evil "Julianna". The harsh vocals by Decades Of Deception frontman Ryan Hogan are pretty great too, adding that much-needed extra dimension to the music; again, I can take more! Alistar himself is also kicking serious ass with some fabulous riffs and solos. Pointing out each individual six-string highlight would be impossible, but the furious riff that opens "Julianna" gets my blood pumping, and the constant soloing after each chorus of "Love Knows No Distance" is done with gay abandon.

The sheer amount of variety for an LP of this style is to be highly commended. Yes, we have the up-tempo Euro-power hymns like "Eternal Destiny" and "The Kingdom Of Light". Yes, we have the traditional lengthy epic title-song (whose cry of 'GLORY RIIIIISE!' makes my hair tingle every time). Yes, we have the token ballad (with a refrain so beautiful it gives me a lumpy throat). These are to be expected. But there's also the darkly sinister "Julianna" (which I won't shut the hell up about) and it's weird-ass melodies, the prog-as-fuck "Echoes In Time", the biggest anthem on the menu "Wayfaring Journeymen" (which might as well be Freedom Call's "Warriors" re-worked), and the folky respite of "Forgotten Alliances"... all of which appear at just the right time, and drive the story and flow of the album perfectly. The only thing I can really detract from this record is the closing track, "To A Future Unknown". It seems an anti-climax after the theatrical "Ominous Glory", but you could always just pretend it isn't there. Magic!

I was afraid this 'review' would lapse into over-zealous ramblings, so I'll cut it here before I become completely indecipherable. Basically, if you enjoy early 2000s power metal along the lines of Dreamtale or Celesty, then The Elven Dream is your dream. It's always difficult to make these kinds of predictions this early in the year, but my album of the year for 2020 was a January release (Annihilator's Ballistic, Sadistic) so I feel comfortable in saying this will easily make my top 10. I don't care if these guys take another 20 years, if the next slice of quality symphonic power metal is as bulky as this, it'll be worth it - even if I'm dead. Now then, where's that burger & soda Alistar promised me if I wrote this review...?

(Originally written for The Metal Observer)