|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 6||Rating: 80%|
A melodic metal band, a power metal band and a progressive metal band, all rolled into one. That would be the best way to describe Borås, Sweden based Harmony and its spring of 2003 Massacre Records full length debut Dreaming Awake (85% Angelic Warlord review). Melodic metal from how the album emphasizes AOR and commercial hard rock catchy hooks but also power metal with its intricate arrangements and double bass drumming but not to a fault either way. Progressive in terms of joining atmospheric and ethereal elements with lengthy songwriting and fusion-like instrumental moments in which founding member and guitarist Markus Sigridsson showcases his exquisite soloing.
Harmony followed up in 2008 with its Ulterium Records sophomore effort Chapter II: Aftermath (90% review) in which it downplayed its previous progressive aspects from compacting its songwriting and taking the heavier and more melodic heading overall. The upshot is the engaging and accessible qualities defining the album. Third Harmony release Theatre Of Redemption followed on Ulterium in 2014 (95% review in receiving the Angelic Warlord album of the year award) and maintained the melodic penchant while allowing the groups propensity for the airy and sublime to again come into play. The overall feel (as taken from said review) is “a darker and moodier Harmony, with its compositions textured and richly woven to the extent a small measure of its progressiveness has returned”.
Main change to report in the Harmony line up for Theatre Of Redemption was the departure of long-term vocalist Henrik Båth and his replacement Daniel Heiman, who gained initial renown from having fronted the first two Lost Horizon albums. Whereas Båth performed markedly with a melodic based and mid-ranged approach, Heiman highlights a wide ranging and expansive middle to upper register style oozing of professionalism and emotion. It would be an understatement to say that both prove a perfect fit for the at times melodic and others power and progressive style characteristic of Harmony. My thought being the two perform equally well and if given a choice, I would take them both!
Of course, any band encountering transition at the vocalist position is going to face its share of challenges in the areas of identity and personality. For example, how will fans respond to the new vocalist? More importantly, how will said vocalist perform the older, classic material? For those wondering how Harmony managed need look no further than the positive response (from fans and critics alike) to Theatre Of Redemption to answer the first question. The groups spring of 2015 EP Remembrance (also Ulterium) addresses the second from featuring re-recorded versions of four Dreaming Awake tracks with Heiman on lead vocals while also including a pair of previously unreleased songs recorded as part of the Theatre Of Redemption sessions.
“Eternity” opens both Dreaming Awake and Remembrance. The re-recording stays true to the original in giving rise to the same upbeat tempo and keyed up drum sound. Where the Remembrance version sets itself apart is from a heavier guitar emphasis while in turn backing off somewhat in terms of keyboards. Instrumentally, classical instrumentation still opens things with the lead guitar that ensues taking the faster heading. Similar to both versions is the unmistakable lyrical stance:
Someone told you there´s a man called Christ
Come to earth in love to save our lives (He said)
There´s a way to paradise and it´s through me
Not your works, only I can set you free
Where do you wanna be?
You must face the truth to see
Waits for all of thee
Just one man can set you free
“Dreaming Awake” maintains its commercial melody slant. The song otherwise comes across weightier, with an elevated bass line now carrying the verses and guitars stepping forward in approach to a chorus with as pronounced a radio friendly hook you will hear. The same type of extended instrumental run (with drum, acoustic and guitar solos) helps taking things out to seven minutes. Which leads to what I appreciate about the re-recordings: Harmony (once more) stays true to the original in allowing each song to maintain its Dreaming Awake equivalents length (credit the group for not skimping out in this regard, in that it could easily have recorded much less satisfying renderings of each song a minute or two shorter in comparison).
Two songs into the EP and it becomes evident how Heiman lends his unique abilities to the Dreaming Awaking material, noting how on both he cuts loose with falsettos that cannot help but bring to mind Rob Rock. What I said in my Theatre Of Redemption review still holds true in this regard: “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!”
Ballad “Without You” also rates with my favorite Dreaming Awake tracks. Those familiar with my reviews know I have a soft spot in my heart for lengthy ballads, and “Without You” does not disappoint in coming in at a full seven minutes. The Remembrance rendering comes across warmer and darker in reflecting the overall thicker vibe. Yes, the same acoustic guitars and keyboards make their presence felt but so does the more conspicuous guitar sound. Sidgridsson’s wonderful stretch of emotional soloing rounds things out in momentous fashion. “Without You” can also be interpreted as making a faith-based statement:
Earth, Will it ever stop to bleed
A world in misery, caused by humans greed
Wars, are raging everywhere
But do we care, as long as we´re not there
When I feel insecure, no help seems to be found
You take me by my hand, put my feet on solid ground
In times when I can´t see what´s wrong or what´s right
You help me see things clearly, you´re my eyes, you´re the light
“She” is the lone suspect track of the four. While far from bad, the song in my opinion fails to live up to the quality that is the rest of the Dreaming Awake material. The problem being that in its original form keyboards end up mixed a bit forward for my taste. On Remembrance, however, Harmony rectifies this with the better guitar and keyboard balance. The song otherwise continues to give rise to the same refined tempo while allowing generous use of backing vocals to grace its refrain. Still, despite the improvements at hand I cannot help but feel better choices could have been made in terms of re-recorded material, with “When Shadows Fall” (featuring a hook nearly big as that of “Dreaming Awake”) and “Maze Of The Past” (aptly entitled with its complexities) standing out in this capacity.
First of the new tracks “In His Heart” comes in at just three and a half minutes- a bit abbreviated for a Harmony composition! The song proves no less able in this regard with its assertive and decisive tone, as chugging guitars and AOR flavorings intertwine for a delectable statement. Of note is the aggressively delivered chorus backed by organ and pristine vocal melodies. Faith again comes into play on “In His Heart”:
He’s there for you, He’ll guide you through
Even though you feel left alone
Don’t turn away, don’t’ walk astray
Here His voice, its calling
He’s there for you, He’ll guide you through
Even though you are far from home
Don’t turn away, don’t’ walk astray
He will keep you from falling
You’re in His heart
You’re in His thoughts
He’s there for you
No matter what you have been through
He will always be there for you
Second “Feed My Hunger”, coming in at a more Harmony-like five minutes, proves a smoothly flowing and swarthy mid-tempo hard rocker. The song opens to an acoustic guitar solo before rhythm guitars step forward and lead the emphatic way, with verses sleek and placid and chorus abounding in flowing fashion. A tasteful lead guitar and keyboard duel highlight things instrumentally.
Remembrance equates to a solid effort as far as EP’s are concerned. Appreciated is the new interpretation of the Dreaming Awake material with Heiman on lead vocals and upgraded production that lends a heavier edge. Two quality new tracks are by no means filler or second bests, as often can happen to songs that do not make the cut of an albums final track listing. In the end, Remembrance is for fans of Harmony or those into melodic and power/progressive metal in all their multi various forms.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Eternity” (5:23), “Dreaming Awake” (6:47), “Without You” (7:01), “She” (5:36), “In His Heart” (3:38), “Feed My Hunger” (4:53)
Daniel Heiman - Guest Lead Vocals
Markus Sigfridsson - Guitars, Voices, Additional Keyboards & Programming
John Svensson - Keyboards
Raphael Dafras - Bass
Tobias Enbert – Drums