Released: 2016, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
Not that it matters, but this is my first review for Metal-Rules.com in 11 years. As I loaded the MP3s of the review copy into the Google Music on my phone—while fondly remembering the old days when EvilG used to mail me sparkly promo CDs in cardboard sleeves—I caught a glimpse of my graying mug in the reflection of my phone screen and thought, “Wow, so much has changed in 11 years.” Then the intro track of Serenity’s Codex Atlanticus began, and I immediately thought, “Okay, maybe not so much.”
This is pretty standard, straightforward Euro symphonic power metal, very much in the vein of Sonata Arctica. In fact Serenity’s vocalist Georg Neuhauser sounds quite similar to Sonata’s Tony Kakko. The guitars are solid, keyboards appropriately bombastic and sonorous, and the pace of the songs is generally very appropriate, gliding between slow intros (check out the toyland-fairy-style bells that open track four, “Iniquity”) and balls-out aggression (the previous track, the ingeniously titled “Sprouts of Terror”). An album like this would have been impossible without the very art of European power metal being molded so meticulously over decades by the bands that Serenity obviously reveres, who are so obvious I don’t even have to list them; you can guess who they are just by listening to a couple of tracks. The production quality is sparkling clean to the point where you could do open-heart surgery on the mix. There are some up-tempo songs, a slower ballad type (“The Perfect Woman”), and a catchy toe-tapping song, “The Order,” to close out the album. If there was a university graduate program in post-2000 European power metal, Codex Atlanticus would be the kind of dissertation that its Ph.D. students would turn in: well-crafted, perfectly-structured and with all the boxes ticked.
That sort of attention to form could make for a very dull album, but Codex Atlanticus isn’t dull. It held my attention pretty much all the way through and I can’t say there were any tracks on it that I didn’t enjoy. That’s not to say it’s compelling to the point of transcendence, but that’s rarely the objective of power metal bands who obviously just want to put out good albums to entertain the same kind of fans that they themselves clearly are. The legions of German, Italian, and Scandinavian power junkies who crowd the beer stands at Wacken wearing denim battle jackets encrusted with ancient Helloween, HammerFall and Blind Guardian patches will consume Codex Atlanticus as a raw material and greatly enjoy the experience. I liked this album, I like Serenity, and if you in any way resemble the kind of person I described in the previous sentence, my guess is that you’ll find this album an excellent investment. I may be a little rusty after 11 years, but good power metal still sounds the same.