Reviewed: January 2021
Released: 2020, Art Gates Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Theragon is a young new entrant into the crowded field of power metal. Hailing from Valencia, Spain, they formed just a couple of years ago and are now releasing their debut full length, the appropriately-titled Where the Stores Begin.
The band certainly can’t be faulted on their determination and the passion behind their product, as illustrated in this quote from them:
“For this album we wanted to make a tribute to power metal and fantasy. Through each one of the songs you will hear our biggest influences blended with our theatrical vision of music, which will help us to bring the classic monomyth of Ariel alive. All in all, melodic power metal at its finest to make you dream and smile.”
You really can feel that intent throughout Where the Stories Begin. It does indeed feel like a passion project of genuine love of and enthusiasm for classic power metal. But bold intentions will only carry so far on their own, and there’s a fundamental problem with the band’s debut work: the vocals.
To be clear, I love some good cheesy power metal vocals. High pitched wails and falsetto delivery, lyrics about fantasy and epic quests, it’s all good stuff. But this just sounds weak. It’s a shame to say it, because you really can feel the enthusiasm behind it all, but every time Ferran Quiles opens up it just brings about a fresh wave of wincing and cringing. The warbling tones are all over the place, the softer sections are far too nasally, and at other times it just lacks any of the energy and force that are absolute requirements for this kind of music. Far too often it ends up sounding disturbingly like Weird Al, only unintentionally so. The only times the vocals are tolerable is during the layered parts, often in the chorus, when they merge together into something at least halfway decent. The rest of time, it’s just awkward to listen to.
Instrumentally, things are much more acceptable, even if not really breaking any new ground. It’s your fairly standard European melodic power metal, but with enough bombast and conviction to carry it along. There are catchy melodies, driving gallops, and all the usual twists and turns of the style. It doesn’t pack any surprises in this regard, but should be rewarding enough for fans of the genre. Though the album could most definitely do without the ill-chosen cover of “Never Gonna Give You Up”: I’m all for fun, silly cover songs, but this one is a swing and a miss.
But it’s really hard to get over those vocals. I’m unsure if the spoken word narration is done by the same person, but it’s little better: our narrator most often sounds bored out of his skull, his lines delivered with all the enthusiasm of the “much rejoicing” crowds from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. At other times the regular vocals will shift into softer tones, trying to convey the emotion of the tales, but it simply doesn’t work: gentler sections meant to rise into big, triumphant returns fall flat, parts intended to be heartfelt. Stirring calls to action sound like drunken mumblings of a folk metal parody. And when he tries to do a gasping, breathy style to evoke the end of a grand feat it sounds like he’s struggling not to throw up.
Theragon have some potential in their instrumentation and their will to craft good power metal. But the vocals desperately need to improve. As it stands, what should feel like an unbreakable blade of steel hits more like a soggy noodle.