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New horizons for Serenity - 89%

MetalGuard, September 5th, 2012

So here it is, the erstwhile opus magnum of Austrian symphonic metallers Serenity. I've been keeping a close eye on this band since their debut album "Words Untold & Dreams Unlived", and have been amazed by their evolution. Their debut offering was already a really strong melodic metal record with a lot of progressive elements, and in later works they've shifted gear a little towards a more symphonic and orchestral approach with definite resemblances to bands like Kamelot, Epica, Delain or Nightwish. This change was already visible on their second album "Fallen Sanctuary", but becomes even more apparent with their third outing "Death & Legacy".

Alright, so they drew almost shamelessly inspiration from early Kamelot covers like "Siege Perilous" and "Fourth Legacy" for the cover artwork, and the musical parallels to Kamelot are also definitely there - but thankfully, Serenity still managed to develop a sound and style of their own. On "Death & Legacy" they finally outdo themselves, and deliver no less than sixteen(!) tracks (albeit with a few more or less enticing musical interludes), an impressive cast of guest musicians and last but not least a large amount of simply great melodic metal.

After an atmospheric intro, "New Horizons" opens the album with cannonfire and a huge chorus, and we are immediately drawn into a journey through the past that visits historical personalities on the eve of their deaths. There is a song about Sir Francis Drake, "Changing Fate", where lead singer Georg Neuhauser is accompanied by none other than the lovely and always great Amanda Somerville; there is a song about the inquisition in "Serenade of Flames" where Delain's own Charlotte Wessels has a cameo, and Giacomo Casanova tells us his tale in "The Chevalier", which features a guest performance by the lovely Ailyn of Sirenia. But in truth, Serenity don't even need all those classy guest performances; the song material on "Death & Legacy" is strong enough by and of itself, and the album is enjoyable all the way through.

However, after a few spins I came to notice that the album sounds a little overproduced, especially in terms of the bulging orchestral arrangements that sometimes threaten to drown the rest of the band's performances, and also with regard to Georg Neuhauser's vocals, which are naturally very soft and laid back, and not really the vocals of a classic "power shouter". Still, his style of singing works quite well for the more lyrical type of music Serenity decide to present, and I can find little fault in that.

Austria is not exactly known for its abundance in melodic metal bands, so Serenity is a most welcome gift from the small country surrounded by the Alps. Fans of melodic metal with a lot of symphonic elements, especially those who enjoy the work of Kamelot, Sonata Arctica or Delain should definitely give "Death & Legacy" a few spins. It's the Austrians' best album thus far, and one of the melodic metal highlights of 2011.

Making another big symphonic stride - 85%

TrooperOfSteel, May 7th, 2012

Serenity first caught my eye (or should it be ears?) back in 2008 when I happened to review their 2nd full-length release entitled ‘Fallen Sanctuary’. As melodic/symphonic power metal bands go, Serenity or one of those who are really up and coming, clawing their way towards the top and riding the wave of recent success. It’s obvious to say that ‘Fallen Sanctuary’ left me quite impressed. 3 years later in 2011, the Austrian 5-piece have returned for their all important 3rd album; called ‘Death & Legacy’.

As it was with the second CD, Edenbridge guitarist Lanvall has again lent his talents of the recording stage, including the choir arrangements and recordings, lead vocal recordings and also writing and performing the instrumental track “Below Eastern Skies”, which appears on the album. ‘Death & Legacy’ also has some guest vocalists to help out, which include Sirenia vocalist Ailyn, Delain vocalist Charlotte Wessels and lastly Amanda Somerville (Kiske/Somerville). Since the second album ‘Fallen Sanctuary’, there has been one line-up change within the band, with bassist Simon Holzknecht leaving and replaced by Fabio D’Amore (Pathosray/ex-Fairyland).

Serenity have slowly but carefully and confidently tweaked and evolved their sound from album to album, beginning with a more prog/power style on the debut, to a melodic power style with symphonic elements. ‘Death & Legacy’ is another step in the band’s evolution and can be considered symphonic melodic power metal. Much like the 2nd CD, this one can again be compared to other bands such as Sonata Arctica, Nightwish, Kamelot, Secret Sphere, Axxis and Angra.

Serenity have also improved with every album, showing more and more promise and maturity with their experience and song-writing capabilities. As a result ‘Death & Legacy’ is a very solid symphonic power metal release, full of epic and atmospheric “movie-score” type passages, immense passion and emotion; and of course excellent guitar and drum work. Vocalist Georg Neuhauser is quite a talented singer, who also sounds a lot like Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) and has a broad range and wonderful delivery particularly when hitting the high notes.

Lyrically, ‘Death & Legacy’ takes the listener on a journey through the ages, introducing us to famous figureheads of history, including Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Casanova, Sir Francis Drake and Queen Elizabeth I to name a few. It’s a pretty long album too, with 16 tracks (one intro and three instrumental interludes) and clocking in at just under 70 minutes. Ailyn from Sirenia performs co-vocals on the memorable and melodic semi-ballad “The Chevalier”, while Charlotte Wessels from Delain performs on the well-written, catchy and impressive “Serenade of Flames”. The final guest vocalist, Amanda Somerville performs on the emotional acoustic ballad “Changing Fate”, and I must add that all three guest vocalists did a great job with their songs.

Aside from “Serenade of Flames”, which is one of the better tracks on the CD, other songs to be labelled kick ass worthy include the heavy, symphonic and epic “When Canvas Starts to Burn”, the straight forward but memorable and effective “My Legacy”, and the melodic and gothic rock tinged “To India’s Shores”. The mighty opening track “New Horizons” is another top-notch song, heavily symphonic and containing a fury of crunchy guitar riffs and double bass pummelling; while “Far From Home” is another catchy and bombastic winner, one of the best actually, with a glorious guitar solo in the middle to seal the deal. Without wanting to name every track (and I wish I could), rounding out the list of the better tracks on the album is the catchy and melodic mid-paced “Heavenly Mission”.

Overall I am surprised and very impressed by the brilliant standard of song-writing from the collective group of Thomas Buchberger (guitarist), Mario Hirzinger (keyboardist) & Georg Neuhauser. The previous album’s song-writing was also very good, so I never expected it to be even better on this release. While the style isn’t new, it is however quite refreshing as the band have upped the ante on the symphonic side of things. The tracks are so bold, memorable and epic; they stay in your head long after the CD has stopped spinning. It goes without saying that ‘Death & Legacy’ IMO is a superior and consistent symphonic power metal album, which could be Serenity’s best thus far (very level pegging with ‘Fallen Sanctuary’). If the abovementioned bands mentioned in comparison to Serenity appeal to you, then ‘Death & Legacy’ should definitely be something worth tracking down.

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