Released: 2013, Metavania
There was a hell of a lot of buzz about Armory in Power Metal circles last year. EMPYREAN REALMS made a number of Top 10 lists, not necessarily big ones, but ones I respect and trust more than the mall metal loving Decibels of the world. I was curious enough to buy it (and the independent debut) from the good people at Nightmare Records.
The sophomore album from this small town American Power Metal band is as good or better than the independent debut that was reviewed here back in 2008. Not much has changed in the six years between albums, no line-up changes and the band is still at the independent level but judging from the quality of the packaging, presentation and gorgeous album art, they have done as good a job as any name label would have done.
EMPYREAN REALMS is loaded with crystal clear, well-produced and performed Metal songs. Armory entice the listener with powerful, Euro Metal styled tunes that have a grandiose feel. There are a few progressive hints in the songs but for the most part the tunes are well-constructed with fluid soloing and some more ambitious arrangements. The tunes run in the 5-7 minute range with lyrical tales of all sorts of things from Jason and The Argonauts (Quest For The Fleece) and Elric of Melnibone (Fate Seeker). Overall the album has a bit of a Science-fiction, outer space feel not only in song lyrics but in the epic feel of the songs as well.
Adam Kurland is an incredible young vocal talent singing in that perfect Halford/Dickinson/Tate range but not always in the high end. He can do it (check out the scream at the end of ‘Fate Seeker’ for a prime example) but he shows restraint and doesn’t always force the high notes. His delivery is very classy and classic. The rest of the band members are not slouches either, with many good individual performances and some very nice keyboard work from multi-talented producer, Pete Rutcho. Many bands and many reviewers (myself) included have used the word ‘soaring’ as an adjective to describe the sound of bands and ‘soaring’ really does describe the pace, tone and tempo of the songs. I’d probably add the word majestically too. Looking at the cover the description of soaring majestically is even more apt.
Hindsight is 20-20 but if I had acted on this sooner EMPYREAN REALMS would have certainly found a slot in my Top 20 for 2013. I know the temptation to buy the new releases by the big name Metal bands (Priest, Accept etc) will be strong this summer but try instead to support the underground, invest in the future of Metal and check out a killer, young band Armory instead. You won’t be disappointed.