Released: 2013, Pure Steel Records
This is the first of my featured three album reviews this month from Florida bands, or former Florida bands (Iced Earth and Absolon are the other two). Jacksonville, Florida’s Artizan have returned with their second full length album, 2013’s ANCESTRAL ENERGY. I have been following and reviewing this band since their initial EP back in 2009, listening as they moved ever closer to their own signature and unique sound. Riding the momentum and overall positive reaction from, 2011’s CURSE OF THE ARTIZAN the band has brought out the big guns on this release. Credit Pure Steel Records too for getting behind the band from a promotional stand point and providing the support needed to make a bigger and better album. First impressions are important and the band enlisted the promising young German artist Eliran Kantor to do the album cover work. You might have noticed his impressive hand on Testament’s killer album DARK ROOTS OF THE EARTH last year, but his work has also graced the albums of Gwar, Mekong Delta, Sodom, and others. His work on ANCESTRAL ENERGY continues to be eye catching.
The band once again are produced by Jim Morris, and ANCESTRAL ENERGY was recorded in the world renowned Morrisound Studios in Tampa. The first thing that is immediately apparent is the enhanced production on this album, with drummer Ty Tammeus captured perfectly and high in the mix as album opener “I Am The Storm” illustrates. Tom Braden’s distinctive vocals soar over a melodic and catchy chorus; a fine track that I think would have been a better choice as the first single, or perhaps “The Guardian”. For my money, it is track three “The Guardian” that stands out as the signature track on the album. Not only does it share the title to a great Fates Warning song, a band that is an unmistakable influence on Artizan, but it showcases all of the bands elements. From the opening acoustic intro to the melodic and tasteful guitar rhythms, everything builds to one of Braden’s most memorable chorus melodies before an emotionally resolving and restrained guitar solo. Even the band background vocals are probably their best yet. It is a fantastic song. The following song, “The Death Of Me” is the first single from the album, certainly a decent tune, but it would not have been my choice for the single.
Probably my second favorite song on the album, “Deep Ocean Dreams” features some of Tammeus’s most complex and tricky drumming while Braden channels Arch/Alder in the chorus, doubling his vocals to great effect. The title track is of course the concluding epic, picking up on the storyline from the last album. The track also features the beloved Matt Barlow lending his impressive pipes to the song and sharing vocals with Braden. Not surprisingly, there are many nods to Iced Earth on this track, a tribute to another of the band’s influences.
If you have never heard Artizan before, this is a fine place to start. Braden sings in a comfortable range, a combination of Ray Alder, John Arch, and Tom Leonard from Enchant, sharing more with Leonard than the other two. Musically, there are hints of NWOBHM, and early US Power Metal, with pieces of Fates Warning, Iced Earth and Crimson Glory incorporated, but with Artizan’s own unique stamp. The only slight quibble is the short running order, the album clocking in at only 7 tracks just over 40 minutes. Despite this small complaint, Artizan has delivered a well-produced and melodic metal album. You will not get fast or gruff metal, but if you crave well-crafted melodic metal then Artizan hit the sweet spot.