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Salazar For Hire - 82%

OzzyApu, November 20th, 2009

While all that other stuff is fine and dandy, I only checked this album out because of Jaime Salazar. This guy has been tied to so many good projects that it’s almost a given that anything he’s a part of is bound to be good. There are some rare exceptions (like one), but you’d be surprised checking out some of these bands and finding out that they not only kick ass, but that they’re pretty worthy of sticking around. Too bad he fell off the god damn radar sometime within the last couple of years; he was a real quality member of the European power metal scene. His style is like a proud horse galloping at an honorable pace, always serving loyally not to any man, but to a principle. Double bass meets the earth constantly while snares continuously pummel with each hit as an exhale of love. I’m getting a bit carried away, but the man really nails down the rhythm aspect of Opus Atlantica’s sound, making the music more epic than the keys. The tone of the kit is cold and a tad stale, but he more than makes up for it – a trusty rifle by my side that I’d never discard.

Otherwise, the music itself is classical bliss, primarily from the guitars and vocals. The keys are way too cheesy for their own good; very childish and synthetic. It’s like orchestral keys, which I’m not that fond of and their pitch is just too high. They’re always fast and melodic, but there’s melodic and then there’s Timo Tolkki melodic like these. The riffs are heavy; damn heavy, in fact, bringing the edge against those whiny keys. I love how it’s like a punch every time they slam down. The lead is on the opposite spectrum – very harmonious and majestic. If they did away with the keys then I’d love this album so much. The combination of deafening riffs and a classical lead guitar is too much! The bass does a fine job backing up the guitar, with Reingold being the main man behind this and Midnight Sun (another stellar band). His keys I can dismiss only because he supplies some gloomy bass lines; bellowing and grumpy, they are.

You’ll get your fair share of synths and choir back-ups, too, and this does give the album a spiritual overtone. The keys kill it a lot, but “Anthem” is probably the shining moment where you’ll get a choir and be supplied with some wicked, speedy leads that take me right back to my days in orchestra. It’s probably the only moment where I can really say this band knows how to write an opus; otherwise, they just write some damn good songs. The occasional female vocals aren’t annoying, thankfully, since they aren’t soprano or very operatic.

For main vocals, I was skeptical when thinking about whether or not Sandberg could pull off his style; he’s actually more commanding this time. His voice is a bit higher than most, but they’re very sweet and not forceful like ZP Theart’s of DragonForce. He kind of sounds like a teenager on this, but with his previous band, Midnight Sun, he sounded older. Weird, but his voice isn’t frail; maybe a bit feminine, I’m not really sure, but not like any female vocals I’ve ever heard.

If there was a track to conjure everything together and make this album worth that extra buck, then it’d be the last track. “Anthem” is quite the instrumental opus when it comes to classical throwbacks, but “Edge Of The World” has the charging riff, stampeding drums, a slick lead and the catchiest vocals on the whole album. There’s more to it that makes it an enthralling experience, but you’ll just have to hear for yourself, won’t you?

Check this one out; proggers, power fans, dragon slayers, and knights alike will love something here. Those into classical music will surely recognize the influence and appreciate it, as well, but that’s totally different perspective from the other listeners. It’s a very positive album, but nothing that’s too fluffy or silly. Opus Atlantica did it, Last Tribe did it, Midnight Sun did it, and pretty much anything with the name Salazar attached means you can rest easy.