Disclaimer: having anticipated this album for quite a long time, my excitement was over the top when the band announced a new album was going to be released soon. In this review I’ll try to stick to the “facts” and avoid overstatements to remain as objective as possible.
Having released their S/T debut album back in 2010, Greek heavy metallers RAGENHEART had to do things in their own pace until it was time for them to resurface.
“If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go together” the proverb says and the band seems to dig this, as the lineup remained almost the same throughout these years. The only change occurred was replacing the keyboards with a second guitar, something that could signal a change of direction towards a more heavy sound. Keyboards are still there in some of the tracks, but I’d say their overall presence is more discrete compared to the previous album. Maybe the production had to do with this, as everything sounds more massive compared to everything the band has released so far.
Moving into the music side of things, what we’re dealing here with are nine songs, including an intro and an outro track, of pure heavy metal with some power and “classical” metal touches. So, while listening to the album you should be able to spot some common ground with BLACK SABBATH (Dio/Tony Martin era), SAXON, BON JOVI or more recent bands such as WOLF (Swe), (recent) JAG PANZER, MYSTIC PROPHECY etc. For the most part, speed throughout the album is kept at moderate levels, but of course there are songs like the aggressive “Fear” or the mellow “The End”, that break the norm.
My gut tells me that if you ask around about the “best song” in the album, most people will mention the opening track, “The Last King”, and rightfully so. Songs like “The Last King” and “Fear” are amongst the highlights of the album, but after having listened to the album for quite a few times, I’d say it’s the second half of the album where the band really shines. Songs like “Dreamer” (great vocal and acoustic guitar work), “Forever Rain”, “Metal Rules the Night” and, probably my favourite in the album, “The End”, really stroke a chord with me.
Speaking of the artwork, it seems the band has a soft spot for the Byzantine times and figures of that era. For example the title, the intro and the opening track, “The Last King”, are dedicated to Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last emperor of Byzantium (thus the title). Sadly, that’s how far the band goes on the topic as, if not terribly mistaken, every other song deals with a different lyrical theme. I’d really wish bands were more interested in epic lyrical themes of the mediterranean and eastern middle ages. The scene is oversaturated with bands singing about knights, vikings or samurais that it feels like nothing else ever existed throughout the centuries.
Anyway, enough with the rant and to provide a closing statement: if you liked RAGENHEART’s first album you’d definitely going to love this one. If you haven’t heard of RAGENHEART before, now is the time to do it and you’ll certainly worth your time.