|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Energema|
|Record Label: Sleaszy Rider||Country Of Origin: Columbia|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 39:47|
Every once in a while, the hard music world produces an unexpected sleeper, an under-the-radar band with the acumen to literally blow more established acts out of the water and make a significant name for itself in the process. The ultimate example of a sleeper, of course, might be Stryper, at least in light of how few if any in the mid-eighties anticipated ‘the yellow and black attack’ of Michael Sweet, Oz Fox, Tim Gaines and Robert Sweet to come roaring out of the Southern California metal scene and inspire a generation of fans and musicians alike. The sale of over ten million albums later - including one Platinum record and three Gold - Stryper remains a force to be reckoned to this day in making what many consider (including this reviewer) the best music of its career when factoring recent releases No More Hell To Pay (2013) and Fallen (2015).
That said, it might not be entirely fair to place Stryper under the ‘sleeper’ heading either in that most bands which come out of left field to catch us off guard do not necessarily go on to have such an impactful influence on the scene (neutral observation and no way a critique). Rather, they take a more subtle if not low-key approach in that despite being potentially less known though no less able, make their mark and establish a loyal fan base all the same.
One of the best examples of such a band is Letter 7, the eighties influenced melodic hard rock project of Phoenix, Arizona guitar shredder JD Evans. I happened to stumble upon Letter 7 while perusing the listings at CD Baby, with the groups 2007 Salt Of The Earth, fronted by Coverdale influenced vocalist Tom Collett, and 2008 sophomore effort Follow The Light, featuring the higher register of Steve Young, leaving quite the positive impression.
More recent act Deth Enemy from Queensland, Australia deserves equal consideration from completely blindsiding me late last year with its at times hard rocking and others commercial AOR influenced debut Unmovable. Every bit unforeseen is The World Will Burn, a joining of renowned Bride vocalist Dale Thompson and multi instrumentalist Alan Zaring, whom skirt modern to grungy to straightforward hard rock territory on its independently released 2015 initial offering Severity.
At this point I am sure you get the idea in terms of what constitutes a band considered a ‘sleeper’- an act that literally comes out of nowhere that at the same time blows the listener away with an unexpected high quality. That would be the best way to describe Energema and its summer of 2016 Sleaszy Rider Records debut full-length The Lion’s Forces. Hailing from Columbia and founded by guitarist Nicolas Waldo, Energema plays up a joining of power metal and melodic metal that (as taken from its press material) is certain to appeal to fans of Gamma Ray, Helloween and Impellitteri. I might also include Narnia, Sacred Warrior, Faith Factor, Jacobs Dream, Eterna and Shining Star as basis for comparison to this group of Christians that loosely bases its lyrics around the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
Album begins to short cinematic keyboard interlude piece “Cair Paravel (Overture)” prior to transitioning to the all out speed metal slugfest that is “Eternity”. The song thunders from the get to, with heightened momentum touching upon the feverish in crashing through its belaboring verses and refrain of an august variety. Front man Alejandro Pinzón takes opportunity to exhibit the full range to his complementary classic tenor vocal abilities.
Albums title track maintains the fixed disposition. “The Lion’s Forces” highlights quite the uplifted low end, with bassist Daniel Pinzón and guest drummer Mauricio Landinez settling into a swarthy but palpitating groove that reminds of early Sacred Warrior (sort of like “The Heaven’s Are Calling” off Rebellion). Nicolas Waldo sets the knife-edge tone with his glowing lead guitar work.
“Aslan’s Call” backs from the speed metal leanings in taking a more straight on and up-tempo melodic metal approach. The song proves bounding and mirthful in this capacity, not maintaining quite the same heaviness but with lighter guitar harmonies throughout while playing up an underpinning bass line. I can see Narnia doing something along these lines.
“Deep Magic From The Dawn Of Time” represents a classic power ballad. Albums most gentle and stilly done, the song gives rise to an atmospheric feel in reflecting a calmer and acoustic based side to the band. Momentum peaks at the three-minute mark as staunch rhythm guitars kick in and give way to an emotional guitar solo.
“The Wood Between The Worlds” starts to a spacey keyboard solo (sounding as if taken from an eighties video arcade game) that leads the way to heavy hitting guitars and blistering leads. The song continues with the hard charging but melodic initiative, subtly maneuvering its dicey verses only to smooth out upon acquiring a contrastingly refined chorus. Further pulsating leads from Waldo help round things out.
A technical essence highlights “Gog & Magog”. The song starts quietly to acoustic guitar and keyboards before bursting forth with full on mid-paced impetus, crunching ahead with imperious guitars holding sway and Alejandro Pinzón again revealing his upper end abilities, particularly for the sweeping refrain. All the while, guitar tones reflect a medieval to classical flair.
Straightforward and bare bones as it gets, “Fall Of An Empire” begins to a drum solo prior to storming its way to galloping riffs and punchy bass to set a traditional metal tone. The song might take a deeper and weightier mid-paced direction in comparison to some here, but it does not sacrifice melody all the same. Think latter period Saint, whom added some periodic up to date power metal lacings to its classic metal backbone.
“Ancient Rebellion” opens its first minute and a half instrumentally as towering guitar harmonies lead the uplifting way. The inexorable drive sustains itself moving forward, with verses assailing in form and chorus of a stately if not complex quality. Of all the albums material, this one touches the most upon the progressive (even if lightly so).
Production is solid for a bands first studio effort. Mix is clear enough to allow bass and leads to stand out evenly, although I would liked to have heard a bit more muscle in terms of the low-end and rhythm guitars. Moving forward, I see this as an area that is only going to improve as Energema gains further experience (I am counting on a follow up album and follow up to that!).
As already noted, Energema lyrically draws upon the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I am sure you already get this from song titles such as “The Lion’s Forces” -
In the name of the Lion’s forces
My body is strong
I’ve been waiting so long this time
I’m ready to fight
Now the stone table is broken
The battle is won
We carry the spirit of the brave and tireless
Aslan broke the spell of the darkness
- “Deep Magic From The Dawn Of Time”:
He was in solitude looking to find a way out
He knew it was the end
Time to redeem the world and give His life
Guarding the night elapsed and within the shadows His soul was poured
From His face His blood and sweat
He arose His sight to heaven in silence
“Gog & Magog” deals with the battle of Armageddon:
Two nations together like sisters
Are risen in Armageddon
The king of the North guides the conflict
He didn’t notice his destruction
The blood will run across the valley
To forget their Eternal King
Because they wanted to keep on the path
Of the nations of “Gog” and “Magog”
“Ancient Rebellion” also draws upon the Book of Revelation:
His rebellion was extended to other angels
They were convinced by lies
And they rose against the Son of the Eternal King
From the third of heaven they were expelled
And some are in jail until the end
Where they will be judged
And completely in file will burn
As far as ‘sleepers’ go, Energema and its initial offering The Lion’s Forces pretty much fell beneath the radar, but it also represents a very pleasant surprise in the process when factoring the quality at hand. Then again, perhaps I am biased due to having quite the soft spot in my heart for all things power metal: melodic, European, epic, neo-classical, symphonic, progressive, etc. Helping cement the groups ‘sleeper’ status are solid performance in the key areas of vocals (Alejandro Pinzón proves quite the underrated performer) and guitarist Nicolas Waldo (an overlooked player within the genre). Overall, I am looking forward to hearing more from what amounts an exceedingly talented group.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Cair Paravel (Overture)” (1:07), “Eternity” (4:54), “The Lion’s Forces” (4:35), “Aslan’s Call” (4:09), “Deep Magic From the Dawn Of Time” 4:27), “The Wood Between The Worlds” (3:58), “Gog & Magog” (5:56), “Fall Of An Empire” (4:48), “Ancient Rebellion” (5:55)
Alejandro Pinzón - Lead Vocals
Nicolas Waldo - Guitars
Andres Parada - Guitars
Daniel Pinzón – Bass
Maurico Landinez - Drums