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Not what I was hoping for - 65%

Valfars Ghost, November 9th, 2016

A couple weeks ago, I remembered how much I love Symphonity’s first album and googled the band for the first time in well over a year. You can imagine my excitement when I learned that, out of nowhere, the band released its first album in eight years about a month and a half ago. Pushing how disappointed I was by another recent comeback from Norwegian viking metal outfit Mistur out of my mind, I turned my attention to this album, prepared for an invigorating and long-awaited blast of symphonic glory.

Oh wait...

Well, it happened again, but at least King of Persia isn’t as big a letdown as In Memoriam. Like with that album, we get something a little different from what was expected. In this case, Symphonity decided not to pile on a metric shitload of symphonic accoutrements, aiming instead for a more inviting and pop-inflected release.

The fact that this isn’t simply going to be a retread of Voice from the Silence is evident as soon as the opening title track's intro gives way to the real song. From the more muscular guitar tone and the general lack of symphonic keyboard flourishes (by this band’s standards), the song has a more traditional bent to it than anything on the group's debut. New singer Herbie Langhan, with his raspier voice fitting the more NWOBHM-inspired song, splits vocal duties with Olaf Hayer throughout the album and on the eponymous track especially. An epic, 9-minute song that progresses much like one of Iron Maiden’s longer pieces, with meaty riffs, solid atmospheric moments, and buildup that manages to be satisfying and varied without a whole lot of fancy window dressing, 'King of Persia' is an album highlight.

The songs vary quite a bit in terms of quality, though none of them touch the high-flying glory of the better numbers from the last album. 'The Choice' is a decent track, with a chorus that's enjoyable despite its poppiness. A similar attempt at accessibility kills 'Flying'. Its chorus is so pop-inflected and overdone, you'd think you were listening to a song that didn't quite make it onto Edguy's Age of the Joker. It aims for an uplifting tone, and achieves it, but not without overdosing on its nauseatingly sweet positivity. ‘Unwelcome’ is probably the best song here and among the first you should check out if you want something that would have fit in on Symphonity’s debut. Not quite as well-executed as this album’s exalted predecessor, the song is still punctuated with energetic, fast-paced bursts, frenetic keyboard-guitar interplays, and choruses and verses that are plenty catchy without being desperately singalong. Rounding out the album is 'Out of this World', a sparse, guitar-driven instrumental that attempts a sort of 'cosmic' feel but just isn't exciting or powerful enough to deliver.

King of Persia has two ballads, because even though the mere concept of the ballad has been reviled since the early 80s, power metal bands still think people want to hear them. Did the members of Symphonity not grow up fast-forwarding their copies of Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I to bypass 'A Tale That Wasn't Right'? Anyway, this album contains two ballads and they're about as skipworthy as they come, especially ‘A Farewell That Wasn’t Meant to Be’, which, even if it was good, would still be twice as long as it needs to be.

Symphonity’s latest finds the band wanting to tone down its speed-laden, symphonic excesses but going too far in the opposite direction. Most of the album proceeds at a mid-tempo canter like Iron Maiden stuck in second gear, and the vocal parts, regardless of which of the band’s two singers is/are delivering them, are often saccharine and overemphasized. While there are a few glimpses of what the band used to be, most of this material is toned down too far, which makes the album as whole hard to recommend despite a few choice cuts.

By the way, in case whoever came up with the idea for this album’s cover is reading this, I’m pretty sure you have Persia and Egypt confused.