|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 95%|
Harmony is, by definition, a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity. That it’s the name given to a Swedish melodic metal band is fitting. Tracing its origin to Borås following the turn of the century, Harmony got its start when guitarist Markus Sigfridsson, drummer Tobias Enbert and vocalist Henrik Båth recorded a demo that led to a deal with Massacre Records. The group proceeded to recruit keyboardist Magnus Holmberg and bassist Andreas Olsson prior to entering the studio and recording its spring of 2003 Massacre full length debut Dreaming Awake. Later signing with Ulterium Records, Harmony maintained its core line up (minus Olsson, who was replaced by Kristoffer Gildenlöw) for its 5 song EP End Of My Road from the summer of 2008 and sophomore full length effort Chapter II: Aftermath released later the same year.
A near complete makeover characterizes Harmony for its Ulterium fall of 2014 third album Theatre Of Redemption: Departed are Båth, Holmberg and Gildenlöw, replaced by vocalist Daniel Heiman, keyboardist John Svensson and bassist Raphael Dafras, respectively. Holdovers remain Sigfridsson and Enbert. What has not changed is musical direction in that Harmony continues to stay true to a foundation of melodic metal with occasional touches of power metal. Theatre Of Redemption finds Harmony drawing upon the best elements of its first two albums in this regard to create by far its finest work to date- the group, in other words, keeps getting better and better!
On Dreaming Awake, Harmony emphasized lengthier compositions with intricate arrangements to create an atmospheric and ethereal sound. An understated progressiveness characterized the album. Harmony condensed its songwriting on Aftermath, with the result the overall heavier and more melodic based release. The upshot was the minimizing of much of its previous progressive leanings. Theatre Of Redemption upholds the focus on compacted songwriting and melody but also allows for many of the groups inherit airy and sublime qualities to reveal themselves. The overall feel is a darker and moodier Harmony, with its compositions textured and richly woven to the extent a small measure of its progressiveness has returned.
When a band changes vocalists, obviously, it cannot help but go through a corresponding transformation. With Harmony and new front man Daniel Heiman, it is the imbuing of some commercial, AOR elements to its trademark melodic power metal basis- a very good thing! Heiman, highly regarded from fronting the first two Lost Horizon albums and making a guest appearance on the Aftermath track “Inner Piece”, brings a wide ranging and expansive middle to upper register style oozing of professionalism and emotion. To say that he proves a perfect fit with the melodic metal genre (and Harmony in general) would be an understatement.
Those new Harmony AOR flavorings manifest themselves on “Inhale”, a bluesy melodic hard rocker aligning trenchant guitars and organ to create a stately effect (radio friendly is the first thing that comes to mind) and “What If”, highlighting the greater keyboard presence and penchant for the reserves and laid back (a catchy eighties edge comes to the forefront accordingly). What the two have in common are abundant layers of backing vocals, which lends to the commercial aura at hand (I cannot help but feel Heiman plays no small role in this capacity).
“In Search Of” showcases the more upbeat tempo in sustaining the accessible focus from its uplifting chorus and feel good milieu. Additional organ makes its presence felt on this one. Ballad “You Are” manifests a lighter touch, as grand piano leads the way with understated traces of rhythm guitar and a breathing bass line to define the emotional (if not warmly tinctured) scene. The song finds Heiman singing in a lower register and bringing to mind Matt Smith (Theocracy) in the process.
The heavier side to Harmony reveals itself on “The Window Of My Soul”, an exquisite aligning of smoothly refined propensities and ardent junctures driven at the more assuming tempo, and catchy “Crown Me King”, starker with its excited leanings and forthright guitars but lushly orchestration in yielding a swarthy environs. What the pair has in common is the use of double bass to lend a power metal aspect. “Hands Of Time” preserves the guitar driven basis in trending somber and darker territory, as rumbling intrepid qualities contrast with glistening vocal melodies of a more polished nature. I particularly enjoy the choir-like (almost classically inspired) passage that helps close the song.
Many of my favorite Theatre Of Redemption moments are its most progressive. “Son Of The Morning” features its share of divergences, starting with the Middle Eastern themed opening but also including reverberant bass guitar driven verses and ominous but deeply textured chorus, as does “Bloodbound”, acoustic laced at a moments notice in giving prominence to passages of an assailing nature and classically tinged instrumental interludes. The albums title track also proves intricately woven, glorious and gracious throughout from its airy attributes but able to switch gears and gain momentum in the more indomitable manner. One cannot help but notice on “Theatre Of Redemption” that when Heiman goes for a high note he reminds of Rob Rock.
A Harmony album would not be complete without the stunning guitar work of Sigfridsson, who (in my opinion) remains one of the more underrated and overlooked musicians within the metal community. My first exposure to his playing was Dreaming Awake, in which he would cut loose throughout lengthy instrumental passages that almost had a fusion feel to them. Likewise, Theatre Of Redemption finds him at the top of his game, as evident on “Crown Me King”, with its technical soloing stretches, and “Son Of The Morning”, accenting fast paced and more expeditious lead work. “The Window Of My Soul” and “What If” even include lead guitar and keyboard duels (it cannot be understated the work of talented keyboardist John Svensson).
On Theatre Of Redemption, Harmony approaches album of the year territory. It starts with songwriting, honed to a polish with its accomplished hooks and melodies while intricate (but not to a fault) at the same time, but also includes immaculate production and refined musicianship. Sigfridsson, as always, plays a defining role from this standpoint, as does Heiman with his boundless vocal range. The gist being I cannot bring myself to stop listening to the album. Hence, everything that Dreaming Awake and Aftermath hinted at (both fine albums in their own right), Theatre Of Redemption builds upon and takes to the next level. Fans of melodic metal with power and progressive facets would do themselves a favor by checking this out.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Window Of My Soul” (4:44), “Inhale” (4:16), “Crown Me King” (4:51), “Son Of The Morning” (5:33), “What If” (4:17), “Theatre Of Redemption” (5:30), “Bloodbound” (6:09), “You Are” (5:59), “Hands Of Time” (4:56), “In Search Of” (4:56)
Daniel Heiman - Guest Lead Vocals
Markus Sigfridsson - Guitars, Voices, Additional Keyboards & Programming
John Svensson - Keyboards
Raphael Dafras - Bass
Tobias Enbert – Drums