|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Millennial Reign|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
Musically, Carry The Fire, the fall of 2015 Ulterium Records sophomore release of Arlington, Texas based Millennial Reign, is not that far removed from the groups self-titled debut full length from 2012. It’s built upon the same foundation of eighties influenced melodic metal and hard rock joined with nuances of traditional metal and the more up to date modern melodic power metal scene. The biggest change to report is how Millennial Reign takes its songwriting to the next level on Carry The Fire, with the more pronounced and engaging at once chorus hooks and melodies prevalent throughout. Not that the debut was in any way flawed, fully deserving the 85% Angelic Warlord review, which described it as a "project characterized by its consistency, continuity and professionalism".
Millennial Reign got its start as a solo project of ASKA bassist Dave Harvey, who began writing for the debut in 2010 prior to recruiting Trae Doss to handle vocals and Bryan Diffee drums. Harvey lent his abilities on guitars and keyboards. Work commenced on Carry The Fire in 2013, but with Doss and Diffee unavailable, Harvey brought in replacements Wayne Stokely (drums) and James Guest (lead vocals). Most immediately recognizable name is Guest, who is quite the veteran within the world of commercial metal and hard rock from having released in 2005 his very fine solo album Klenzd (80% Angelic Warlord review) and equally laudable 2012 self-titled debut of his Eden’s Realm project (75% review). When Harvey decided to turn Millennial Reign into a full time band, bassist Daniel Almagro and second guitarist Jason Donnelly rounded out its line up.
The same levels of consistency, continuity and professionalism characterize Carry The Fire. Production maintains the high standard, with an even joining of unequivocal guitars and brisk keyboards backed by a defined rhythm section. Album artwork (courtesy of Felipe Machado Franco) also fits the bill with its portrayal of an angelic figure engulfed in flames standing atop a defeated dragon that has been cast down to the earth. Production and artwork, of course, are all for naught if songwriting is not up to par, and that is where the Carry The Fire strength resides, with ten equally good compositions bringing a quality I can see appealing to fans of the leading players within the melodic metal meets power metal segments.
The Millennial Reign penchant for melody reveals itself on opener “Forever Changed”, a classy five and a half minutes that interweaves between airy bass guitar driven verses and catchy chorus in which guitars muscle to the front of the mix. This one has classy arena rocker written all over it. “Way Up High” sustains the melody focus but in yielding the more forthright disposition. With galloping riffs commanding the regal scene, the song sets an abiding tempo as rhythm section tumultuously churns and vocal harmonies smooth out another radio friendly refrain. A melodic hard rock direction is taken on “Not My Own”, albums most commercial with its understated pop tinctures (melodic bass drives the backdrop) and pleading demeanor of a persuasive variety. Trying everything together is the staunch guitar sound.
Albums commercial material reveals a professional performance from Guest, who with his refined and pristine classic tenor vocal delivery proves the perfect vehicle to front the engaging material at hand. In past reviews I suggested that fans of Steve Perry (Journey), Rik Emmett (Triumph), Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) and Shawn Pelata (Line Of Fire) would enjoy his silky smooth style and same holds true here.
Also of a melodic nature but taking the heavier direction is “This Day”, starting to gentle acoustic guitars before driving rhythm guitars take over and lead the ardent way. Keyboards lend a buoyant feel, while extensive backing vocals bolster the larger than life catchy refrain (one of the albums finest). Of similar nature is “Will You”, melodic with its poignant sensibilities (chorus again approaches the mesmerizing) but heavy in terms of the unrelenting guitar foundation. Harvey and Donnelly stand out with their ripping soloing. “I’ll Try” represents albums fastest, setting a tempestuous if not mercurial tempo but also allowing for some riffs that approach traditional metal territory. Despite the angst, the Millennial Reign affinity for the infectious again comes into play with an enduring melody.
Bridging the gap between the Carry The Fire more melodic and power metal influenced material is “Men Stand Alone” and “Innocent Cry”. Former kicks in at once at an upbeat tempo, full of vigor and energy in carried its length by prevailing drums and accenting keyboards of a symphonic variety. Guitar harmonies are tight as it gets (sort of like Stryper). Latter represents this reviewer’s choice track. Song opens its first minute instrumentally in running the gamut from ominous choir vocals to acerbic rhythm guitars, only lightening for its classically influenced verses before guitars return to bolster the epic as it gets chorus.
“Millennia Reign” reflects a decided power metal touch. Group’s signature song executes from a more technical standpoint, uplifting in terms of its grand and stately qualities exuding exquisite symphonic touches, while allowing for heightened instrumental moments carried by searing dual lead guitar. “Save Me” also proves intricate in taking the darker, more mid-paced heading. The song slowly crunches forward from the start, laid back and reserved but not forsaking heaviness in terms of frenetic drum outbursts (credit the work of Stokley in this capacity) and definitive guitar mix. Emotional refrain is imploring as it gets.
I might not have a lyric sheet (I wrote the review off pre-release promo download files), but the groups faith cannot help but come through in its prose. "Save Me" manifests this: “On the cross You gave Your life. Crucified You bled and died. Come and save me…” As does “Forever Changed: “Now is the time for men to stand upon the Word. Listen to what it says. It will be heard. Every man that believes is not afraid to fall on his knees.”
Millennial Reign brings the same standout characteristics as other ‘melodic power metal’ acts such as Harmony, Magnitude 9, Shining Star, Audiovison, Rob Rock and Black Fate. I particularly appreciate the depth to the group’s songwriting, with the majority of its compositions falling within the five-minute range in reflecting a high level of technical aptitude but without crossing the progressive threshold at the same time. The decision to bring in Guest was pure genius in that his elevated style complements perfectly the melodic based environs at hand. In the end, Carry The Fire is certain to challenge Worldview’s The Chose Few as album of the year.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Forever Changed” (5:36), “Way Up High” (5:12), “Millennial Reign” (4:29), “Men Stand Alone” (5:39), “Save Me” (5:26), “This Day” (5:14), “Will You” (5:21), Innocent Cry” (5:34), “Not My Own” (4:57), “I’ll Try” (5:04)
James Guest - Lead Vocals
Dave Harvey - Guitars
Jason Donnelly - Guitars
Daniel Almagro - Bass
Wayne Stokely - Drums