It’s been one and a half month since “Montecristo” was released via Underground Symphony. From the very moment it came to my hands it has been playing over and over again and every time I listen to it there’s something new to discover, nodding my head with a big smile of approval on my face. Needless to say, I absolutely LOVE this album and the reasons I insisted on reviewing it are mainly two: first, this is a truly BRILLIANT power metal album that can stand out from many others of the genre and second, I didn’t want it to be absent from Forgotten Scroll webzine site. Sounds a little selfish? Well, I do take full responsibility about bringing it to light! Without question, it’s GREAT MASTER’s best work so far and it will certainly be in my best albums list of the year. In any case, regardless of my own opinion, I strongly believe it’s a release not to be overlooked.
So, what’s new or different in “Montecristo” that distinguishes it from GREAT MASTER’s previous albums? Well, the most significant change is that the band included many symphonic elements to their sound. As successful as they have integrated epic style to their classic power metal songwriting in the past, so have they now merged grander and more complex orchestral/choral parts with thunderous riffs and catchy melodies. And the outcome is just MARVELLOUS!
I dare to say that many so-called symphonic metal groups would do well to pay attention to how these power metallers have brought out an album that beats them at their own game. “Montecristo” can be counted among the most solid and enjoyable symphonic metal works of 2023; GREAT MASTER absolutely nailed it combining the famous Italian aptitude for pompous songwriting and the uplifting straightforward aggressiveness of power metal.
Yet, their identity as a band hasn’t change and they are fully recognizable as the same group that started almost thirty years ago but keeps improving since their debut, “Underworld”, always taking a step further. The band’s line-up remained almost the same since their previous release, with Denis Novello (drums) being the only new member in this sixth full-length album. Together with old-timer Massimo David on bass, they offer a fabulous rhythm-section display throughout the whole album. The miraculous guitar duo of founding member Jahn Carlini and Manuel Menin is memorable, both riffs and solos affirming their high-level musicianship. Giorgio Peccenini’s performance on keyboards is astonishing and Stefano “Stex” Sbrignadello’s excellent voice proves to be the decisive element of showing up the band’s exceptional songwriting – not that predecessor vocalist, Max Bastasi wasn’t fitting for the role. Still, it seems that the current line-up can dare making bigger leaps.
“Montecristo” is indeed a concept album about Alexandre Dumas’ famous hero – the Count’s adventures being an ideal tale for the continuance of thematic albums that GREAT MASTER like to offer us.
First track, “Le Pharaon”, is a majestic opening for “Back Home” which follows like a melodic thunderstorm. From start to finish, riffs, choruses, lead and backing vocals, everything really prepares perfectly the listener for what’s to be expected in the album. “The Left Hand Joke” that comes next lifts up the mood with speed and some notable, telltale elements that build momentum for “Where the Shame Lives”, an EPIC anthem full of darkness and greatness – a real highlight of the album! By the time that next song, “I Am the Master” is finished, one can be absolutely certain that “Montecristo” is GREAT MASTER’s songwriting summit so far, composition and musical arrangements alike reaching new heights; not yet in the half of the tracklist and the depth of their job is more than obvious. After “Your Fall Will Come” that’s another typical yet masterfully worked powerful song, “Nest of Stone” serves as the only ballad of the album – bittersweet and elegant, this is one more song showcasing the admirable teamwork of Giorgio Peccenini and Stefano Sbrignadello. “My Name” resembles the pirate metal style of GREAT MASTER’s two previous albums, mid-tempo riff galloping mixed with folk-inspired enthusiastic vocal lines. And then “Man from the East” comes as a full-force blasting to offer another superb song with a nice ethnic touch in the beginning and a imposing crescendo as it develops. “The Weak Point” is nothing like its name indicates, keeping the already cemented power/symphonic alliance in great shape before launching “Final Revenge”, a rather typical example of bombastic keyboard/guitar soloing. Two final songs, “On October 5th (Wait and Hope)” and “Montecristo” close the album in all its orchestral and choral glory, the melody of the title track being insanely catchy!
You know what? You can start listening to the album from the end to the beginning – I just realized this is a double-faced power metal opus, play it anyway you want and it will still be AWESOME!
Oh yeah, it felt damn good to let out how much I like it! Now I can rest assured that someone –most probably a fan of SABATON, KAMELOT, GLORYHAMMER and the like– will soon thank me about having done so…
Check the discussion about the album in our forum pages.