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A Blast of Northern Thunder - 82%

AnalogKid, September 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Independent (Amazon)

Black Wind and MA readers may recall Chris Foley’s (Andromeda_Unchained here on the Metal Archives) coverage of Parsifal’s debut, Here From The Past (which is now indeed from the past), an interesting surprise somewhat overwhelmed in a year full of power metal goodness. In keeping with what is apparently a theme for the band, Parsifal again dishes up a triple sized portion of speedy, classic pan-European power metal concealed beneath a strikingly spartan album cover and logo. Parsifal seems to be completely self-financed, self-released, and minimally marketed, and for a band that is both international and belonging decidedly to the melodic Euro-power metal scene, that’s a pretty impressive and unique combination.

Since I haven’t weighed in publicly on this band before, I’ll start at the beginning. Parsifal has a decidedly Swedish flavor to it, bringing to mind acts like Last Kingdom, Insania, ReinXeed, and to a lesser extent, Axenstar, earlier Bloodbound, and Dionysus. Vocalist Oscar Pelin is both the most remarkable element of the band and possibly its biggest drawback, depending on how finicky you are about your vocals. Pelin’s approach is often very similar to Tommy Johansson of ReinXeed, except with less of a preoccupation with that man’s mesospheric tendencies (and, I think, for good reason). Pelin, however, has an odd vocal approach – very enunciative and syllabic in delivery which, when combined with a recognizable, slightly nasal vocal timbre and occasional questioning of pitch in the high register, is enough to make some listeners take pause. Now, I’ll temper this warning with the recognition that I’m one of the pickiest individuals I know when it comes to stomaching inexpert vocals in power metal, and I find Pelin perfectly stomachable, if quirky, the vast majority of the time. It helps that he has grown as a singer and spends more time in his mid-range throughout this album.

Parsifal’s approach on Heavy Duty doesn’t deviate exceedingly from the debut, but there is some noticeable change. While maintaining the occasional acoustic, atmosphere-building elements featured on Here From The Past, the band uses these more sparingly in favor of a consistently high level of energy. The production sounds superior to my ears – the guitars a bit more meaty, and the drums more percussive. Additionally, while I can’t make sense of the song or the title, “Storming The Reaper” is a measurably stronger opener than Here From The Past’s “Legend Within”.

Blastbeats in the chorus of the title track and copiously sprinkled throughout “The Seven Sorrows” offer up another noticeable addition: an uptick in aggression and drama in Parsifal’s sound. In fact, I’m stricken by the spread of drumwork on this album. Though power metal through and through, it slips into new patterns, shifts speeds, and even disappears and manifests itself again with grace and expertise. Percussion is often so perfunctory in power metal, so finding such thoughtfulness and creativity is striking - and a huge point in this band’s favor.

What else can really be said? Let’s do some pleasant rehash. Soaring, anthemic peaks and reflective, stoic valleys create a surprisingly balanced album. Heavy Duty doesn’t have quite as much breakneck speed as its predecessor, but for this, it is more of a seasoned fencer than an enthusiastic farm boy just handed his first sword. I’m four listens deep into this album at time of writing, and Heavy Duty continues to grow on me in leaps and bounds. This band has a knack for novel melodies, comfortable and thoughtful – but not at all contrived – guitar work, and smart insertion of digital instrument samples and orchestral touches. Where I initially regarded Here From The Past with a passing curiosity, I’m pleased to have my attention re-drawn to it, and to the band as a whole, after a capable and commanding sophomore effort. Heavy Duty exceeds expectations and delivers the best kind of hard-hitting surprise that power metal’s potent underground scene is so capable of.

Originally written for Black Wind Metal