Released: 2013, AFM
Human Fortress is back! Although it has ‘only’ been five years since ETERNAL EMPIRE, the feedback and media reviews were so universally bad for that CD, I did not even listen to it. The German Power Metal band had a massive change in sound to an allegedly modern Metal sound. After 2003’s excellent DEFENDERS OF THE CROWN, half the band left. After ETERNAL EMPIRE five of the six members left and Wolf, the lone surviving member and founding guitarist emerged from the rubble and walked away with the band name. There hasn’t been a defection of Germans that large since the cold war! Thorsten Wolf rebuilt the band with ex-members and new record label (they are now on AFM) and a new vocalist, the third in four albums. Thankfully all the defections and line-up changes have been resolved for the time being and the new (sort of) line has recorded an excellent comeback album called RAIDED LAND.
There is a strong lyrical theme running through all of RADIED LAND. Many of the 13 songs on this 55-minute album tell tales of raiding forces, war and conquest from across the ages, from ancient Rome to medieval times to the conquistadors. The lyrics are very well done. Singing them is the new vocalist, Gus Monsanto who has been in a number of bands but may be best known for his work in Adagio or perhaps Revolution Renaissance. I like his voice, when he songs in a mellower tone he reminds me a bit of the classy and smooth delivery of Gary Hughes of the band Ten. Elsewhere on the heavier cuts like ‘Gladiator Of Rome’ or ‘Dark Knight’ he has some nice grit to his voice. I think he may the most well-rounded vocalist the band has had.
Musically, Human Fortress have returned to their Power Metal roots on RAIDED LAND and it is a very welcome return. I feel it is their most sophisticated album to date. There are a number of atmospheric introductory pieces and an instrumental as well to break apart the record. The song-writing is a bit more progressive but not too technical, most songs with a conventional verse-chorus arrangement with emphasis on good choruses. The individual performances are strong but not too flashy, the band seems to have emphasized stronger songs and a bit less speed and flash then the first couple of albums.
Human Fortress is an interesting study of a band that almost imploded but pulled themselves back from the brink of extinction. I hope the decade long gap between good albums doesn’t hinder the bands chance of regaining some status in the Power Metal world. However if people take the time to listen and enjoy RAIDED LAND they will rediscover this excellent band and in a bizarre situation, almost unheard of where the band returns to it’s roots but evolves at the same time. They struck the perfect balance and RAIDED LAND is a welcome return.