|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Johannes Häkämies|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: Finland|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 51:11|
Reality, the 2005 debut full-length of Finland’s Wingdom, was a good album. We liked it a lot at the time of its release (90% Angelic Warlord review) and still embrace it as a fresh and consistent listen to this day. Many identified with Wingdom as an ‘all star’ project of sorts in featuring keyboardist Mikko Harkin and bassist Alessandro Lotta. Harkin cut his teeth with Sonata Arctica in lending his abilities to the EP Successor (2000), full length effort Silence (2001) and live album Songs Of Silence (2002), while Lotta was part of Rhapsody Of Fire at the time of its well known releases Symphony Of Enchanted Lands (1998) and Dawn of Victory (2000). The group also included a little known but talented vocalist named Sami Asp. When Harkin departed Wingdom in favor of Mehida, unfortunately, the group sadly fell apart before a second album materialized.
Ten years later and Asp has returned on lead vocals and guitars as a session musician with Gloriam Dei. With Koko Suomi, Finland as its home, Gloriam Dei has rounded out an equally talented roster from including rhythm guitarist Jarmo Happonen (ex Oratorio), drummer Ville Karhu (Miseria) and bassist/keyboardist Johannes Häkämies (ex Norman). Whereas Wingdom based itself upon a foundation of melodic power metal with strong progressive leanings, Gloriam Dei backs away from the progressive aspects in pursuing a sound heavily rooted in European power metal on its fall of 2015 and independently released full-length debut The Covenant. Actually, labeling Gloriam Dei ‘power metal’ might be misleading if not limiting in that while you will hear the trademark symphonic, epic and neo-classical components inherit to the genre, encountered at the same time are hints of melodic metal, AOR and melodic rock and even straightforward hard rock.
Remaining unchanged with Gloriam Dei are the signature earthy and heartfelt mid-octave to high-end vocals of Asp. Opener “Bethlehem” proves the perfect venue to showcase his abilities, as he stretches and exhibits the full range to his voice on a consummate melodic power metal piece dazzling with its alluring tempo and melody of a huge commercial nature. The classically influenced extended instrumental section brings to mind Golden Resurrection.
“Treasures Of Heaven” maintains the melodic leanings but in the slower and overall heavier package. A symphonic keyboard solo gets the song started, with the verses that ensue smooth and vibrant (as punctual bass adorns the mix) and chorus flowing in smooth but catch fashion (highlighted by backing vocals of a near Stryper-like capacity). This one has commercial melodic metal written all over it.
The heaviness carries over onto “Sins Of The World”, a varied number reflecting a darker and more bottom heavy vibe from the thickset guitar walls that power it forward from the start. Impetus, however, does not pick up until the procurement of an infectious chorus in which exuberant double bass plays a supreme role. Instrumental moments again reflect a classical touch as Asp lets loose with a generous stretch of consummate lead guitar.
“Rest In You” takes a more laid back and relaxed heading in comparison to those preceding. Consider the smattering of keyboards and piano (it must be noted the quality work of Häkämies throughout the project) that align with delectable rhythm guitars to create an almost exalted if not sublime landscape. Likewise, slower passages that hint of the orchestral add to the stately feel at hand.
The luxurious flavorings to “11,000” represent this reviewer’s choice track off the album. The song proves symphonic metal paradise, evenly traversing its length to stunning guitar harmonies and tapestries of richly woven keyboards as Asp lends an emotional element with his warmly tinctured delivery. The brilliant refrain whispers and sighs as it slows to a crawl with its enticing essence.
Albums title track proves a classic AOR influenced melodic rock ballad. “The Covenant” elegantly drifts its length as grand piano, stately keyboards and orchestration gently converge over layers of animated bass that literally breathes in the backdrop. Momentum picks up over the songs final half as chanted vocal melodies tenderly imbue the lush atmosphere.
“Blindmen” delivers some of the albums rawest and heavier moments with its bare bones straight on hard rock mentality. Defining the song is its perseverant (and very catchy) riff action - militant, heavy duty and just plain imposing - which combines with an anthem-like refrain to lend some seventies classic rock qualities. Fittingly, soloing dances with blues based territory.
“Jokainen”, lone track in the group’s native Finnish, returns things to power metal territory. Up-tempo front to back, the song delivers non-stop buoyant energy as hooks galore and lush and inviting vestiges define the rousing scene. Perhaps it is the presence of Jarmo Happonen, but this one would sound right at home on either of Oratorio’s albums.
“Look To The Cross” begins in the form of another ballad as sparkling keyboards gradually lead the way through the first couple reserved minutes prior to crunchy guitars cutting in and elevating the tempo exponentially. Rounding out the songs satisfying six and a half minutes and lending a slight progressive edge in the process, is the multiple instrumental sections that leisurely drift to bluesy soloing (I cannot help but be reminded of one of Narnia’s slower tunes, “No Time To Lose”).
Narration from John 6 segues to closing track “We Will See Again!”, an uplifting and lively melodic metal piece that transitions between heavy set and bass guitar driven verses and animated chorus that bustles with the best of them. I particularly enjoy the instrumental passage covering the songs final minute and a half in which keyboards and lead guitar contest over pounding double bass.
The Covenant is only available digitally (at the time of this writing) and correspondingly falls victim to the trappings of download only music: all I received was the music files and no lyrics, liner notes or cover art. A CD release of the album comes highly anticipated. That said, the group was kind enough to upload lyrics to its Facebook page, which leave little doubt as to how The Covenant is a Christian project and Gloriam Dei (a Latin phrase that translates ‘God’s Glory) a Christian band. Besides, the albums crisp and clear production allows vocals to cleanly stand out in the mix- so a lyric sheet is not a necessity.
“Bethlehem” details said faith in question -
We are waiting for our Redeemer
Who rules by being so humble
We are waiting for the Kingdom
Where freedom reigns eternally
Bethlehem – we are waiting Redeemer
Bethlehem – Our King will come soon
Bethlehem – you give bread to our hunger
Bethlehem – Light will come through You
- as does “Treasures Of Heaven”:
You are the Life
You are the Way
You tell the Truth
Every word you say
I belong to you
I’m the chosen one
In Christ alone
The road is done
No gold of earth can set me free
Only the treasures of God can make me see
“Look To The Cross” deals with faith during hard times:
We can look to the cross
When our life goes so hard
And remember how rich we are
Look to the cross and see all that love
And God is not so far
When your life takes a turn for bad
When the sad day begins
Know that One won’t be far
He will see your suffering
“We Will See Again! encourages the listener to think eternally:
We will see again, some day
When the harvest comes
We will meet again
When the King arrives
We will raise again, some day
When the time is done
We will smile again, before the Lord
On The Covenant, Gloriam Dei proves its versatility in staying true to a power metal basis while reflecting influences of melodic metal, AOR and melodic hard rock. The album remains a fresh listen on repeat play as a result in that no two songs sound the same, with each standing on its own and separating itself from the rest (hence, the 90% score). Notable melodies and abundant instrumental moments go hand in hand with the polished Gloriam Dei sound accordingly. Fans of power metal in all its forms not to mention the groups contemporaries previously referenced would do themselves a big favor by checking The Covenant out.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Bethlehem” (4:35), “Treasures Of Heaven” (4:40), “Sins Of The World” (4:41), “Rest In You” (4:23), “11,000” (5:17), “The Covenant” (3:59), “Blindmen” (5:12), “Jokainen” (4:55), “Look To The Cross” (6:37), “John 6” (1:01), “We Will See Again!” (5:57)
Sami Asp - Vocals & Lead Guitar
Jarmo Happonen - Rhythm Guitars
Johannes Häkämies - Bass & Keyboards
Ville Karhu - Drums