Reviewed: April, 2018
Released: 2018 Rockshots Records
Rating: 3 / 5
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
If good things really do come to those who wait, then Greek metallers Sense Of Fear – or SOF – are about to get theirs and then some. Nearly 20 years after forming in Kozani, the band are finally ready to release their debut full-length.
Incredibly, three of the band members – Ioannis and Markos Kikis, guitar and drums, respectively – and guitarist Themis Iakovidis have stuck it out through thick and, mostly, thin for the duration, which included a five-year hiatus from 2007-2012. Bassist Dimitris Gkatziaris signed on in 2005. Only frontman Ilias Kytidis is really all that new, coming onboard in 2013 for the band’s first actual release, the self-titled EP that featured three of their own songs and a cover of Iced Earth’s “When The Night Falls.”
All three of those original tracks – “Angel of Steel,” “Sense of Fear” and “Torture of Mind” – reappear on the full-length, along with seven other new tunes. But the Iced Earth cover, which is omitted here, actually offers a pretty good indication of what SOF have to offer on the fittingly titled As The Ages Passing By …, an album two decades in the making.
SOF’s sonic palette is a mix of vintage speed metal and power metal, with the occasional progressive foray, recalling Iced Earth and early Fates Warning. The sound and songs are both grand and determined, but are performed with a sense of modesty that keeps things from getting too complex or indulgent.
Kytidis certainly helps keep everything grounded with his mid-range vocals and deliberate delivery. He definitely is neither a howler or a vocal acrobat, and the band seemingly follows his lead by keeping their performances largely straight and simple, despite sometimes sprawling arrangements, as on the nearly nine-minute title track or “Slaughter Of Innocence.” Some occasionally flashy leads, and nifty flamenco-style acoustic guitar work on “The Song Of A Nightingale” is about as extravagant as the band gets here.
In fact, Ages might have benefited from a bit more fire and fury. At an hour long – and an average of six minutes per song – the album tends to drag as the tunes meander instead of offering abrupt twists, turns or dead sprints. “Torture of Mind” and “Sense of Fear” offer a nice kick as they build to their finales, a la Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” and “Lord of the World” shows some almost hardcore moxie in its punchy riffs, shout-along chorus and comparative brevity – at just 2:38.
But SOF let what momentum they build here ebb, which is a shame. And while there is something to be said for the band’s restraint – especially after 20 years of pent up aggression and frustration – a bit more gusto here certainly would have been a good thing.