Reviewed: December 2000
Released: 1999, North Wind Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
Jesse gave me this CD, and I really hope he doesn’t want it back. I have a feeling I’d have a tough time finding this in America, and if I heard word one about this band, I would definitely be motivated to locate this album!
Highlord, as you might expect from their name, album title, and cover art straight out of a Dungeons & Dragons game master’s guide, is a European power metal band, apparently Italian. Their album starts with a moaning cello and overacting synthesizer – an intro called “Ouverture [sic] in B Minor” which, when a (synthesized) oboe and harp jump into the fray, can only leave a metalhead extremely skeptical about what is to come. However, the second track, “Through the Wind,” raises hopes with what at least is a piece and a half of a catchy power metal sound. However, the album really begins to hit its stride with the third track, “Will of a King,” where the mandatory power metal elements of galloping anthemic fist-in-the-air rhythm, acrobatic guitar arpeggios, and wailing high-pitched vocals finally come together with some truly meaty riffs. The album manages to hold that thought more or less consistently throughout its remainder, which is no easy feat considering that, the “Ouverture” excepted, six out of eight songs are more than six minutes long. This album also does something I rarely see in metal but would like to see more of: they save the good shit for the end. The final track, “Sand in the Wind,” is probably the best on the album, and is most successful after hearing the ramp up of the previous eight songs. It is this song that took me closest to the rollicking, fist-pumping, Helloweeny, Gamma Ray-ish sing-along valhalla in which this incorrigible power metal junkie spends far too much of his time. Highlord even passes with flying colors one of the most difficult tests in all of power metal-dom: the obligatory power ballad, this one called “Burning Desire,” which is sentimental without being kitschy, syrupy or downright stupid.
As good as it is, this album is not perfect. The vocalist, who is not a Kiske, a Kürsch, or a Sammet, on more than one occasion tackles a job which only one of those three could pull off successfully. And the keyboards are used just too much, especially when they’re set on “harpsichord” mode. However, given the overall good show that Highlord gives us here, I’m easily persuaded to overlook these fairly minor points in recommending this album to any serious power metal fan.
A bit slow to get started, a bit rough here and there, an edge or two to file down – but Highlord’s shakedown cruise gets me where I want to go, and in style. Since this is precisely not the kind of CD that is likely to be filling the container holds of cargo ships across the Atlantic any time soon, you may want to contact North Wind Records (P.O. Box 157, 15057 Tortona (AL), Italy) yourself. In the meantime I’ll just file this quietly away in my alphabetized CD case for safe keeping, perhaps under S or T. That way if Jesse asks for it back I can tell him I “misplaced” it…
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