Released: 2011, Disentertainment
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Merging Flare, this melodic heavy/power metal troop, has a long history. The band was put together in 1993 already by schoolmates guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen and drummer Henri Pyy. Back then the band was keen on following the footsteps of AC/DC, having this more rock approach to their music.
After many musical metamorphosis and lineup changes, their music started to lean toward a more metallic approach, all this rounding around a band called Disease back then, which was a sort of prototype of Merging Flare (the Merging Flare name was found as late as in 2001).
Since those days – quite surprisingly, Merging Flare have only released 3 demos and one split-EP together with Guardians of Mankind (a Finnish Gamma Ray tribute band, which both vocalist Matias and guitarist Kasperi are a part of). I said ´surprisingly´ because Merging Flare reeks just of lots of true potential – and they could already be a part of some bigger musical league, basing my judgment primarily on these guys´ skills to master their instruments – and first and foremost, compose more than just a fistful of easily hitting songs that stick to your mind like a used gum to the back of your trousers.
REVERENCE is Merging Flare´s debut full-length studio album, containing 10 of their own songs, added with a cover of Riot´s “Sign of the Crimson Storm”. For what the album is worth, it´s definitely worth a listen – or even two, if some sarcasm is allowed to spit out in here. Merging Flare have taken their time by working their asses off for their debut album over these past few years – and now it has truly paid off for them. And if their wanted to maximize the album´s immediate quality effect, no other but Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray handed over some of his musical superiority to the guys of Merging Flare as well by contributing a couple of vocal + guitar appearances on this very record.
If I have understood, Merging Flare is basically a result of all those efforts band-wise how guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen wanted his own band to sound like. Kasperi is one talented fellow when it comes to composing songs that are meant to have some melody, lots of up-tempo-ish riffs, wicked solos, memorable yet mind-sticking chorus parts, etc. – whatever it takes from him to catch something alike that bands like Priest, Helloween, Primal Fear, Accept, Gamma Ray and the like, possess within their heavy/power metal anthems. It helps if you are able to work with a team that is both talented and ambitious but also knows exactly what your goals are in terms of musical orientation. That´s what has been all about REVERENCE; so mature and refine Merging Flare do sound on their surprisingly fresh and uplifting debut album that it may make one wonder how on earth they have not managed to get their 1st record out any earlier, but just until now.
It´s no wonder either that Merging Flare count firmly on a very similar musical approach in their songs that are also mostly typical to Helloween, Gamma Ray, Running Wild, etc.: Pure, melodic yet aggressive metal-driven sound in which one cannot live without another. They clearly rely on sort of ´safe´ and already familiar yet tasteful recipes that aforementioned metal acts have so successfully used over the many years, but do it so well – and with so much devotion and conviction involved within their songs that they must be fully aware of their ultimate goals regarding Merging Flare so that they just cannot fail.
And they don´t. Kasperi, who has also played 2nd guitar in Gamma Ray´s ranks as a live session member, is honestly quite phenomenal with his 6-string axe, playing fluently yet so spot-on every note that he´s able to conjure out from his instrument. Matias Palm proves to be more than a man for vocalist´s position, using his wide range of voice in a clever way within the songs, somewhat amazingly switching his vocal style from Freddie Mercury type of theatrical vocal style (“Terrordome”; start listening at the 2:09 minute mark) to a raspy – almost similar vocal style that f.ex. Kai Hansen has. This man has truly got some skills. The rest of their band mates also do their share very well for the benefit of the band, sounding tight and just like that kind of unit in which everyone knows exactly their own position in the band. Guest vocalist and guitarist, Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray also earns his extra props for contributing in 4 songs on the record, sort of providing an extra push to pump some more essential fire into the songs.
From almost a sinfully catchy opener “At Draggers Drawn” to a very Priest-flavored “Steel Redeemer”, the album can be considered an excellent grand opening from these Finnish hard-boiled metallers Merging Flare. They could hardly have recorded this album any better way than this, and based on a very strong material on their debut already, it´s kind of easy to predict a relatively smooth road for them to be traveled in the future, toward more successful times ahead of them.