|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Revalve||Country Of Origin: Italy|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 70:45|
Say the words ‘power metal band’ around a group of European hard music enthusiasts and they’ll yawn. Do the same thing in America, though, where such groups are nowhere near as prolific, and brows furrow in confusion. Shoulders shrug. Eyes widen and arms defensively cross over chests. We share the frustration of the power metal faithful in the face of such disdain. It remains a mystery why the United States cannot produce a single power metal band - Theocracy, anyone? – that if give the right ‘commercial opportunity’ (the key words) might challenge the endless sea of all too much sound the same core-this-and-core-that-modern-rock bands for supremacy on the airwaves. That, however, is a story for another day.
If interested in creativity and innovation as it pertains to the power metal scene - in all its various forms and sub genres - one must inevitably look to Europe, at least from the Christian side of the fence. Sweden’s Narnia, of course, is the first band that comes to mind as does the side projects of its various members, including Golden Resurrection (vocalist Christian Liljegren) and Empire 21 (guitarist Carl Johan Grimmark). Northern Europe is also home to Harmony, Sacrecy and Wingdom not to mention Gloriam Dei, the new band to feature Wingdom vocalist Sami Asp. Rounding out the region is one band each from Germany and Slovakia, Seventh Avenue and Signum Regis, respectively and two more from Italy, Metratone and Hypersonic.
Hypersonic is the latest act to report on- or at least receive the Angelic Warlord review treatment. The group came about in 2006 from a partnership between founding members Emanuele Gangemi and drummer Salvo Grasso (Metatrone), debuting in 2008 with the four-song EP Inspiration Is Transpiration that also featured vocalist Alessia Rapisarda and bassist Francesco Caruso. Recruiting keyboardist Dario Caruso for full length debut Fallen Melodies from 2011, the Belpasso, Catania based group returned in the spring of 2016 with its Revalve Records sophomore album Existentia, which conceptually is based around the ‘the existence of man and the spiritual affairs afterlife’ (referencing its press material).
Of note is how the album also features a plethora of guest musician appearances, including vocalists Michele Luppi (Secret Sphere), Tommy ReinXeed Johansson (ReinXeed, Golden Resurrection) and Jo Lombardo (Metatrone) and Roberta Pappalardo (Black Roses).
On Existentia Hypersonic leaves little doubt as to its power metal propensities, delivering a sound rooted in the melodic and symphonic side of things but also not without the occasional progressive moment. With talented front woman Alessia Rapisarda leading the way, Hypersonic brings to mind musically other female fronted bands from Italy in S91 and Ivory Moon.
Opening vocal cut “The First Sound Of Life” offers a good indicator of her dark and richly textured abilities, which touch upon a lower register element in comparison to some contemporaries. The song otherwise gives rise to an epic metal flair, with the grandiose keyboards, elevated guitars and notable melody to match. Note that Existentia starts to short cinematic keyboard instrumental “Principium”.
“The Eyes Of The Wolf” follows and is first of the four duet tracks, as joining Rapisarda is the classic tenor of Michele Luppi on a piece that proves power metal manifest. As behooves the genre, tempo is unrelenting (with Salvo Grasso providing the interminable double bass backbone) and guitars incessant (as Emanuel Gengemi sets the technical tone in question). I am somewhat reminded of Seventh Avenue).
Second duet track “Blind Sins”, featuring the recognizable melodic flair of Jo Lombardo, finds Hypersonic reinforcing the symphonic aspect to its sound. Keyboards play a more prevalent role accordingly, lending an imposing feel while impetus lightens to a mid-paced heading, although not backing from the guitar basis. Tommy ReinXeed lends his pure and crystalline delivery to “Living In The Light”, another symphonic influenced piece to also make forward keyboard use (I cannot say enough good things about the work of Dario Caruso) but elevating tempo with an uplifting and inspiring ambience the upshot.
Ballad “Embrace Me”, with its all female duet of Rapisardo and Roberta Pappalardo, highlights a calmer demeanor as piano, sublime keyboards and occasional heartfelt rhythm guitar helps define the emotional setting at hand.
While not necessarily duets, “Love is Pain (Heartbroken)” and “Life ‘N Death” include periodic extreme vocals, courtesy of Don Davide Bruno (Metatrone). Former takes a bottom heavy melodic power metal approach in which unwavering bass and double kick drum hold sway, while latter plays up the darker, symphonic based heading as choir vocals, lofty keyboards and understated time signatures play lead roles. Whereas there is nothing wrong with either track, they do not rank with my album favorites due to the extreme vocals, which (as often the occasion) can come across forced or out of place. It has been my experience that you cannot add extreme vocals to a song at random and make it ‘work’; rather, it works best (in my opinion) for a song to be built from the ground up with any extreme vocal presence in mind. A good example of this is “Swindler” off the self-titled Vox Heaven debut from late last year, the next album in line to receive the ‘Angelic Warlord review treatment’.
Many of my choice Existentia cuts are those entirely fronted by Rapisarda, including “As An Angel”. Do not let the keyboard solo at the start lull you into a false sense of security in that this one soon turns into a barnburner, hinting of speed metal with its intense tempo as rapid fire double bass and vigorous riffing coalesce. Passages in which temp occasionally slows allow for a technical form.
“Prayer In The Dark” represents another highly rated piece. The song gradually fades in prior to blossoming into a full-bore melodic hard rocker, defined by its conspicuous low-end driven groove and emotionally tinctured refrain that reaches for the commercial. Instrumentally, things start to a keyboard solo before Gangemi steps forward with a stretch of riveting lead guitar.
“God’s Justice” takes the album in a progressive heading. The atmospheric keyboards and narration introducing the song give way to the time signatures that carry its remaining distance: keyed up passages upheld by intense riffing trade off with calmer moments of a melodic nature as classical overtures take over. I like to think of this one as merging the bone-crushing heavy with the lightly ethereal.
Existentia closes to two part nine minute epic “The Meaning of…” and “…Existence”. “The Meaning” is two tempered minutes of sound effects, acoustic guitar and angelic choirs. “Existence”, in contrast, picks up impetus after fading in to keyboards, taking off to a burst of energy and maintaining the liveliness its remaining climactic seven minutes, only slowing for periodic passages of a calmer nature, including the jazzy to jam fusion instrumental moments.
While it is my policy not to go into too much detail about lyrics to concept albums for fear of giving away the subject matter and/or storyline, Existentia (according to the groups press material) attempts to answer several questions: Who are we? Why are we here? What is there after life? That said, I thought offering lyric snippets to several cuts would provide further insight on the subject in question:
“God’s Justice” -
Pray to the God of peace
You destroy the evil lie
Jesus is the answer, heals our wounds
You proclaim the victory
“Living In The Light” -
Silent rain in my eyes
Forgive my sins and make me free forever
I am living in the light, there is no darkness
But when I look up in the sky
I find true hope and I see your holy face
“Blind Sins” -
Darkness is gone away from my existence
Blind sins torment, my soul in this earth
But now I’m ready to change
The only Saviour is my God
“Life ‘N Death” -
Light of true life
Show me your meaning and gift
Now you are next to me
Life will win over the sour death
At fourteen songs and over seventy minutes, Existentia borders on the long winded, although it does not wear out its welcome despite its length. While a couple songs could potentially cut the album, everything holds up with the possible exception of the two extreme vocal tracks, which despite some repetition have enough to offer that I do not skip over them. Beyond the innate abilities of the individual Hypersonic members, the plethora of guest appearances further lend to the albums appeal, as does the high quality packaging and production. In walking a fine line between the melodic and symphonic side of things, Existentia makes a solid name for itself within the power metal scene.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Principium” (2:19), “The First Sound Of Life” (5:33), “The Eyes Of The Wolf” (5:28), “As An Angel” (6:59), “Blind Sins” (5:56), “Living In The Light” (5:12), “Embrace Me” (5:15), “Love Is Pain (Heartbroken)” (4:18), “God’s Justice” (6:06)), “Life ‘N Death” (5:54), “Pilgrim’s Path” (2:44), “Prayer In The Dark” (5:22), “The Meaning Of…” (2:06), “…Existence” (7:32)
Alessia Rapisarda - Lead Vocals
Emanuele Gangemi - Guitars
Francesco Caruso – Bass
Dario Caruso – Keyboards
Salvo Grasso - Drums & Male Vocals
Mihele Luppi - Lead Vocals
Tommy ReinXeed - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Jo Lombardo - Lead Vocals
Roberta Pappalardo - Lead Vocals
Don Davide Bruno - Growled Vocals
Stefano Calvagno - Guitars
Dino Florenza - Bass