|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 54:33|
One cannot help but appreciate how the Swedish Christian metal and hard rock scene has expanded over the years. Jerusalem represents one of the pioneering bands, recording such noteworthy albums as Warrior (1983) and Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent (1988), while Leviticus and Charisma made their mark in the same era with Setting Fire To The Earth (1987) and Rock The World (1985) respectively. The early to mid-90s saw the emergence of Veni Domine, who presented with a progressive based doom sound on Fall Babylon Fall (1992) and Material Sanctuary (1995), and XT, a melodic metal outfit that released Tax Free (1993) and Extended Empire (1995). As the decade progressed, Laudamus put out the hard rock of its full length debut Unlimited Love (1999)and Narnia the neo-classical metal of Awakening (1998). The turn of the century found Narnia experimenting with power/progressive metal on Desert Land (2001) and The Great Fall (2003) before delivering a melodic metal masterpiece in Enter The Gate (2006).
Harmony also deserves consideration. The group recorded its first and only demo in 2001, a five song effort that led to a deal with Massacre Records, before putting out its full length debut Dreaming Awake two years later. After going on brief hiatus, Harmony signed to Ulterium Records and released a five song EP entitled End Of My Road in the summer of 2008 and its full length sophomore effort, Chapter II: Aftermath, later the same year.
On Chapter II: Aftermath Harmony continues to combine elements of melodic metal and power metal. Where the group diverges from the past, however, is that it now heads in a heavier and faster musical direction. And nowhere is this more evident than on “Prevail”, “Aftermath”, “Rain”, “Weak” and “Hollow Faces”, five top of the line pieces standing out with their catchy choruses and upbeat momentum. The up-tempo heading is maintained on the refined “Don’t Turn Away” and rollicking “Inner Peace”. The symphonic sounds of “Kingdom” and “I Run”, on the other hand, prove that Harmony can compose a quality mid-tempo number while “Silent We Fade” represents a consummate ballad.
Guitarist Markus Sigfridsson, of course, helps lend to the groups heavier sound with his upfront work on rhythm guitar. As a lead guitarist, he ranks with the most underrated musicians of the genre: Just check out his exquisite soloing on “Don’t Turn Away”, “Inner Peace” and “I run” to understand my point. The instrumental portions of “Prevail”, “Aftermath” and “Kingdom” even find him trading off with keyboardist Magnus Holmberg. Speaking of keyboards, Magnus also proves quite the able musician in adding just the right amount of depth and texture to each track without overdoing it (“Kingdom” and “I Run” find him putting his best foot forward).
Frontman Henrik Båth continues to make his mark with his trademark clean and smooth mid-ranged vocal presence. (Similar to Markus he is quite the underrated performer.) At this point it must be noted that Daniel Heiman (ex. Lost Horizon, Heed) makes a guest lead vocal appearance on “Inner Peace” (Henrik handles everything else).
I might describe the production values to Chapter II: Aftermath as perfect with a clean sounding mix allowing each instrumental to stand out as it should.
Up-tempo album opener “Prevail” does a good job showcasing Harmony’s heavier and more guitar driven sound. The song proves a refreshing piece, taking a solid wall of rhythm guitar and joining it with occasional traces of piano. The end result is quite the catchy environs – the chorus hook here is prevailing (no pun intended) – guaranteed to pull you in with repeated listen. Sigfridsson and Holmberg deliver a tasteful lead guitar and keyboard duel as well.
“Aftermath” maintains the upbeat heading. The song comes across as quintessential melodic metal, serving up another resounding chorus and an energetic aura in which Tobias Enbert exhibits his tight as a nail work on drums. The frenetic pace almost brings to mind Impellitteri. Another top performer is Holmberg, who gets things going with a keyboard solo while again trading off with Sigfridsson throughout another extensive instrumental section.
“Rain” also brings an outburst of non-stop energy. This one proves a riff driven piece – a literal ton of groove is delivered – with a plethora of tireless momentum carrying its full distance. From a chorus standpoint, what we have is another imposing hook but conveyed in a manner bordering on the anthem-like. “Rain”, along with “Prevail” and “Aftermath”, prove in no uncertain terms the maturity gained by Harmony in its songwriting skills.
Classy melodic metal would be the best way to describe “Don’t Turn Away”. The song starts acoustically before a blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards soon cuts in. Impetus gradually builds as “Don’t Turn Away” moves ahead, smoothly maneuvering through its verse portions until making an even transition to a refined chorus backed by polished vocal harmonies. Sigfridsson delivers a stretch of the albums finest lead guitar.
“Kingdom” heads in mid-paced symphonic metal territory. Holmberg’s keyboards are placed prominently throughout the song, bringing out the best in its instrumental opening – featuring a rhythm guitar and keyboard duel – and richly textured chorus standing out with its stately propensities. A fusion based instrumental section again finds Sidgfridsson and Holmberg trading off.
“Silent We Fade”, the albums lone ballad, brings to mind “Without You” (off Dreaming Awake). A joining of classical instrumentation, piano, acoustic guitar and lush vocal melodies slowly carries the song through its sweeping verse portions, the elegant setting not giving way until the rhythm guitar steps forward to drive the luxurious chorus that follows. What we have here is a beautiful song that brings a slight but complementary touch of the commercial.
“Inner Peace” mixes an up-tempo setting with some cool jam band elements. The song is driven in a fast paced manner its full distance in showcasing a rapid drum sound and worshipful chorus: “Lord of all Lords/For eternity/I’m reaching for You/I’m on my knees.” But what puts “Inner Peace” over the top is its lengthy (two minute) instrumental section that starts to some ominous keyboards that give way to a choppy rhythm guitar. Sidgridsson soon steps forward with his trademark riveting lead guitar to carry things the rest of the way.
Another solid hook is delivered on showstopper “Weak”. The song stands alongside “Prevail”, “Aftermath” and “Rain” in that not only does it present with a masterful chorus – I challenge to keep this one out of your head – but an abundance of energetic proclivity as well. I particularly enjoy how “Weak” transitions from a piano at its beginning to a rhythm guitar prior to taking off in spirited fashion.
The symphonic “I Run” ranks with the albums best. A near perfect joining of rhythm guitar and keyboards holds sway over the song – backed by occasional hints of piano and acoustic guitar – as Henrik Båth puts forth quite the moving performance on lead vocals (just the right amount of emotion conveyed in his delivery). An edgy rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix to underscore a chorus that, for a lack of better words, dominates with its infectious leanings. Sigfridsson’s spicy lead guitar adds the perfect touch.
“Hollow Faces” maintains Harmony’s penchant for highlighting elements of the upbeat and the hook driven. The albums shortest piece at three and a half minutes, the song takes an animated tempo and fuses it with a galloping chorus (catchy as all get out) and a trademark duel between Sigfridsson and Holmberg.
Closing things out is “End Of My Road”, the title track to Harmony’s summer of 2008 five song EP (made up of three songs from Chapter II: Aftermath and two exclusive tracks). The song proves a palatial mid-tempo number in giving prominence to a steadfast chorus and plenty of crisp rhythm guitar- all the while gentle tinges of keyboards decorate the backdrop.
The best way to summarize would be to state that on Chapter II: Aftermath Harmony builds upon the strengths that made Dreaming Awake successful: accomplished songwriting (plenty of catchy hooks to draw you in) and first rate musicianship (lead guitar and keyboards both come to mind) and lead vocals. Yes, it took five long years for the album to see the light of day but it proves well worth the time and wait. Let’s hope it does not take Harmony so long to put out its follow up effort.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Prevail” (5:13), “Aftermath” (4:35), “Rain” (4:49), “Don’t Turn Away” (4:58), “Kingdom” (5:43), “Silent We Fade” (4:41), “Inner Peace” (6:06), “Weak” (4:27), “I Run” (5:24), “Hollow Faces” (3:26), “End Of My Road” (5:05)
Henrik Båth – Lead Vocals
Markus Sigfridsson – Guitars
Magnus Holmberg – Keyboards
Tobias Enbert – Drums
Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass
Daniel Heiman – Lead Vocals