Reviewed: September 2003
Released: 2003, Moroz
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Aria (that’s A-P-U-backwards-R to you non-initiates) are certainly the best band eer to come out of Russia, and over the past two years have become somewhat of a favourite band of mine.
CHRISTENING BY FIRE marks a significant turn in Aria’s history, with longtime vocalist Valery Kipelov, guitarist Sergei Terentyev, and drummer Alex Manyakin departing the band after the disappointing 2001 album, CHIMERA, and new members Artur Berkut, Sergey Popov, and Maxim Udalov to fill their respective positions.
It is obvious to me that new blood in the band has kindled a new fire in songwriters Holstinin and Dubinin as they churn out some of the best melodic heavy metal that the band has released in eight years.
“Patriot” kicks off the album (Literally. I can’t help but think “Painkiller!” in the drum intro) with all the classic Aria sound. The speed and melody are here, but I’m noticing that the guitar tone is sounding a lot heavier than before. Artur Berkut is certainly no Kipelov, but his vocals are much the same style, and more than adequate for Aria’s sound.
“Christening By Fire” is not as fast as the opener, but makes up for it with a catchy, though simplistic chorus, and a nice extended melodic middle passage. I’m noticing here that there does not seem to be as strong chemistry between Vladimir Holstinin and Sergey Popov as there was between the legendary duo of Holstinin and Sergei Mavrin. I’m not saying that they are not compatible, rather that the guitarwork is not as tight as it could be.
“Coliseum” is the single from the album, and it is the ultimate in catchiness. This is just an all-around great tune with some choppy, heavy riffing, and Berkut’s voice sounding his best on the entire album. Damn, I’m really headbanging here and trying to sing along, though I don’t know a single word that they are saying. One more thing, bonus points to Aria and their label, Moroz, for putting out the video for “Coliseum” on the enhanced pressing. While the video is nothing special in itself, it is a nice move, and neat to have.
“Hangman” really does nothing for me besides weigh the album down for nearly 9 minutes. Well, we do get some interesting and speedier parts from about 5:30 to 7:00, but the rest of the song is slow and uninteresting.
“Your New World” makes up for the previous track, however, with a totally heavy riff like Cage and Agent Steel would write. I love the punch in this track, but some of the melodies are rather familiar.
“There Highly” is the gratuitous ballad of the disc, but as far as ballads go, it is tolerable.
“Flag of Truce” has some great speed metal (Though wtf is up with the crazy wolf-howl in the opening?). Some of the momentum is taken away by alternating fast/slow passages, but the guitarwork is full and catchy.
“Fight” could have been a very good song in the classic Aria fashion, if it were not for some silly experimentation. Crappy electronic vocal effects and silly distortion effects take away from a song that would have fit right in on BLOOD FOR BLOOD.
“Ball at Prince of Darkness” isn’t even worth mentioning, an uninspired closer.
Although I went into this album secretly hoping for another BLOOD FOR BLOOD, I am not disappointed with CHRISTENING BY FIRE. Although there are some crappy tracks, the rest of the album is classic Aria. While it is not as good as the golden era from HERO OF ASPHALT through BLOOD FOR BLOOD, Aria have successfully rebounded with their best album since the excellent NIGHT IS SHORTER THAN DAY.
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