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Eternal Victory - 80%

Larry6990, November 4th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak)

Though still reeling from the success of 2016’s Codex Atlanticus, I was at least pleased to hear news of another release from symphonic power metal stalwarts Serenity. Over the years the Austrians have carved a sound that is truly their own, among the often clone-ridden sub-genre. Despite having diluted the peripheral progressive elements somewhat, their brand of pompous anthemic Euro-power is possessed of a certain maturity, mainly due to both George Neuhauser’s vocals and his lyrical content. Here in 2017, the Austrians take on the story of Richard I of England with their new album, appropriately titled Lionheart on the legendary Napalm records. Though it may not innovate or push boundaries musically, fans of the band should have plenty to shout about.

The medieval theme positively drips over this album. The awesome artwork, and even the band’s make-up in the promo shoots, fit the historical vibe given off by the music. It may not cover all the details of the 12th century knight’s life, but song titles like “Empire” and “The Final Crusade” speak for themselves. Richard’s crusade in the Holy Land is well worth covering by a metal band of this stature, and the grandiose hymns of Serenity completely suit the concept. They even manage to bring some of that Eastern flavour through the menacing riffs in “The Fortress Of Blood And Sand”. Speaking of menacing riffs, that’s one of Serenity’s major selling points: the contrast between the grindingly heavy (e.g. the opening of “Hero”), and the delicately tender (e.g. “King’s Landing”).

That opening riff to “Hero” caught me off guard completely, but when paired with the equally stomping “My Fantasy”, the crunching riffage makes sense and isn’t jarring. Both “King’s Landing” and the token ballad “Heaven” are gorgeously touching and poignant, providing the halfway respite of the album, and showing off the band’s penchant for softer material. Neuhauser’s silky smooth vocals have always been a familiar trait of Serenity’s sound, and he appears to show no signs of slowing down. He’s always reminded me of Tony Kakko, except with actual charisma. While he commands the flowing melodies of Lionheart with aplomb, the harsh vocals in “The Final Crusade” are a welcome surprise, competently performed by guitarist Chris Hermsdörfer. I only wish more power metal bands would employ this tactic – it adds an extra dimension.

Some tracks on Lionheart phone in the quality a little, such as the forgettable “Empire” and moderately generic “Rising High” (Really, who needs another “whooooaaa” chorus?). But this record harbours some true gems. The first three tracks especially are a solid melodic punch to the face. The obligatory intro “Deus Lo Vult” builds up anticipation excellently with its tense martial symphonics, before the galloping “United” knocks you on your ass with a chunky guitar tone and driving pace. Naturally, it’s the grand, explosive anthems where the Austrians really revel, and the soaring “Eternal Victory” is a sheer delight, one of the best tracks from this band in recent years. But the jewel in Richard’s crown has to be the stunning title-track: a fiery and glorious slice of symphonic power metal with a chorus catchier than the plague. Seriously, I’ve been whistling that hooky melody for weeks! This LP doesn’t quite reach the heights of the sublimely orchestrated Codex Atlanticus, and it may suffer from being flabby (54 minutes!) – but it’s still a splendidly produced power metal album with some soon-to-be classics.

“Like a lion we fight. Together we will die.
For the glory of our God!
Justice on our side. This cross will lead the light.
Follow Richard: Lionheart!”