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Released: 2016, Nuclear Blast Records
After serving as lead guitarist and major song writer for 16 years in venerable German metal institution Rage, Victor Smolski certainly needs no introduction. After splitting with Peavy in 2014, Smolski wasted no time in assembling his new musical endeavor, Almanac. Staffed with world-class musicians and two of the best vocalists around (Brainstorm’s Andy Franck, and Pink Cream 69’er David Readman), Almanac would seem to be the perfect vehicle to bring Smolski’s orchestrated power metal to life.
Sure enough, TSAR, the group’s debut album, just knocks it out of the park with ease. A 50+ minute concept album about the life and reign of Ivan the Terrible, the record is packed with the powerful riffs and hook-filled choruses the made Smolski’s work in Rage so memorable. Everything the man was known for comes into play, whether it’s speedy, near-thrash riffs, more groove-oriented material, and of course tasteful and classical soloing.
Accordingly, with such a roller coaster of a life story being told, the music moves from triumphant-sounding fanfare (title track) to hope-infused power metal (“Children of the Future”) to thunderous anger (“No More Shadows”). Only one brief, quiet respite is given, with the instrumental cut, “Darkness”. Throughout, the orchestrations are used tastefully to add to the mood of the music.
As for the vocalists, of course Franck and Readman nail their parts. Smolski obviously sought these guys for a reason and they capably bring the story to life with spectacular results. Franck has been on fire in 2016 with this performance as well as Brainstorm’s awesome SCARY CREATURES album.
The fact that TSAR is likely one of the most expectedly great albums of 2016 takes nothing away from the fact that it is in fact awesome. Smolski has obviously put a lot of passion and thought into it and the results are staggeringly good, a near-perfect record. Any fan of Rage, Brainstorm, or heavy power metal in general NEEDS this.
2. Self-Blinded Eyes
4. Hands Are Tied
5. Children of the Future
6. No More Shadows
8. Reign of Madness
9. Flames of Hate
Victor Smolski: Guitar
Enric Garcia: Keyboards
Armin Alic: Bass
Michael Kolar: Drums
Andy B. Franck: Vocals
David Readman: Vocals
Jeannette Marchewka: Vocals
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