|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Tommy Johansson & Jani Stefanovic|
|Record Label: CMS/Rivel||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: ReinXeed|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 53:35|
ReinXeed is the musical creation and vision of a multi-talented musician out of Sweden by the name of Tommy Johansson. Getting his start as a guitarist at age 9 and taking up singing upon reaching 15, Tommy spent several years in music school – where he polished his skills by also learning piano, drums, bass and flute – before conceiving the idea of a “movie soundtrack mixed with melodic power metal”. Hence, ReinXeed was born. Tommy proceeded to put together his own studio where he recorded several new songs he eventually added to his MySpace page. Drummer Eskilsson (Majestic Vanguard), impressed with Tommy’s material, soon got him in touch with Christian Liljegren of Christian Music Sweden/Rivel Records.
The Light, the full length summer of 2008 CMS/Rivel Records debut of ReinXeed, can best be described as melodic power metal with the occasional epic or symphonic tendency. Fans of Royal Hunt, Avantasia and Sonata Arctica will find a lot to like here as will those into Theocracy, Narnia, Essence Of Sorrow and Majestic Vanguard. Up-tempo numbers such as “The Light” (as fast a song as you will find), melodic based “Great Hall Of ReinXeed” and keyboard driven “Eternity” are as good as it gets. Of equal merit are more progressive based pieces “Northern Sky” and “Kingdom Fall” along with the shredding instrumental “Heavenly Fire”.
It must be noted, however, that The Light includes several filler tracks - “End Of This Journey”, “Magic Might” and “Shyrheny” come to mind – resulting in a project on the inconsistent side of things. “Legacy”, while a step above filler category, is better but suffers from the albums shortcomings in the area of production (more on this later). All in all, my overall feeling is that The Light presents with too many contrasts of quality, reflected in the significant gulf between its better material and that which strains towards the pedestrian. Again, a bit more consistency is needed here.
The Light finds Tommy Johansson taking on a “one man project role” in that he handles lead vocal duties in addition to rhythm and lead guitar, bass and keyboards. Jani Stefanovic (Divinefire & Essence Of Sorrow) fills in on drums while also co-producing the project. Tommy brings a wonderful melodic based voice hinting at Matt Smith (Theocracy) but with more of a hi-end feel. If anything, the guy can flat out sing like a bird; if in doubt then check out the abundant range he exhibits on “Kingdom Fall” and “Great Hall Of ReinXeed”. He proves equally able on lead guitar, best displaying his soloing abilities on “Northern Sky”, “The Light” and “Heavenly Fire”.
Keyboards are also capably done but almost to a fault in that they end up laid on way too thick. The outcome is that the rhythm guitar is often drowned out, one of the main symptoms of a mix that is out of balance: on most tracks, for instance, all you hear is a blend of keyboards and drums with a hint of guitar in the backdrop. And when the rhythm guitar is not able to make its presence felt (as it should), you cannot help but ask yourself- is this even metal in the first place? Production values could use some improving.
Lyrically, what we have in The Light is another epic fantasy/science fiction based concept album. The key word is “another” in that in recent years Pyramaze (Legend Of The Bone Carver) and Seventh Avenue (Terium) have also produced fantasy/science fiction themed projects. Unlike the previously referenced works, however, The Light does not quite deliver the musical character to back the storyline- with the aftermath being an atmosphere bordering on the corny. I hate to be critical, but when you bring a concept based around “good and evil, where greed and power are united to conquer both sides into one dark place” (taken from the albums liner notes) then, songwriting wise, you had also better bring a certain element of musical consistency and depth, which is not always found here. To understand my point, would Blind Guardian’s Nightfall In Middle Earth generate the creditability it has if you ended up hitting the skip button three or four times?
The album opens to its title track, an up-tempo number almost setting a frenetic, speed metal-like pace. Hi-octane from the get-go, “The Light” storms ahead to a withering hail of rapid double bass only to smooth out for its verse portions. The unrelenting environs returns, however, for a mercurial chorus in which Johansson exhibits the full range to his voice. A complementary extensive instrumental section rounds out one the better pieces here.
“Great Hall Of ReinXeed” slows things down a bit – at least in comparison to “The Light” – but still sets quite the breakneck clip. Standing out with its sublime – almost epic – feel, the song plows forward relentlessly, not culminating until reaching a chorus on the deep and resounding side of things. Guitar and keyboard solos uphold another lengthy instrumental section.
“Eternity” is a keyboard based piece that approaches the mirthful with its bouncing, almost quirkily driven rhythm. Please note I say this in a positive sense in that the song proves quite enjoyable, joining passage that border on the “folk-like” in capacity with others heading in the groups trademark melodic power metal direction. Whatever you call it, it works in that “Eternity” features quite the moving melody and several air instrumental sections (one which is upheld its length by a piano).
“Northern Sky” ranks with the more progressive numbers on The Light. The song almost starts in the form of a semi-ballad with its melding of piano and emotionally played guitar. Soon picking up in pace to a galloping riff, “Northern Sky” maneuvers its way ahead in compelling fashion only to culminate for a stately chorus in which a near palatial setting is put into place. I enjoy how “Northern Sky” – following a bristling guitar driven instrumental section – tapers to a near standstill for a quieter, keyboard based passage.
“End Of This Journey” proves somewhat of a letdown when considering the quality of the material preceding it. Lacking that big “Theocracy-style” hook, the song almost comes across pedestrian in failing to deliver – in my opinion – that extra element of charisma and inspiration that would allow it to hold up under repeated play. I can see how others might get into it – “End Of This Journey” does bring a resounding, choir-like chorus – but more often than not I tend to pass.
“Legacy” is better but still comes as a disappointment. Musically, it brings the stronger melody and moves at the faster tempo but a too forward mix of keyboards – particularly during its chorus and portions of its instrumental section – can present a turnoff. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like on “Legacy” (it is by no means filler and is actually quite catchy) but it represents one of several songs that would benefit from a more balanced mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards.
“Magic Might” and “Shyrheny” are two more compositions I struggle to get into. Neither gives us that abundant hook or melody that might immediately grab my attention- let alone keep me coming back time and again. If anything, the two – while certainly in line with the musical backdrop to The Light – are a bit too plain sounding for my taste (kind of like “End Of This Journey”) in not providing that extra creative spark that would put them over the top.
“Kingdom Fall”, in contrasts, stands out as by far the finest number by ReinXeed. Ten minutes of inviting progressive metal, the song begins to a lengthy instrumental opening that transitions from cinematic keyboards to a galloping double bass driven riff. “Kingdom Fall” proceeds to march ahead in a symphonic manner, flowing through its catchy chorus – predominant melody imbued here – and a lengthy instrumental section upheld by a refined blend of keyboards and skillfully done lead guitar. Without a doubt this one displays the artists full potential.
Normally, I am not a fan of those shorter “filler” instrumentals bands often use to open and close an album. The one exception, however, is “Heavenly Fire”, a shredding track in which Johansson showcases his full abilities on lead guitar. The song, if anything, brings to mind many of the instrumental pieces on older Impellitteri albums such as “Eye Of The Hurricane” and “Crunch”- the mood and vibe is the same. The only complaint is that it could have been a minute or two longer.
When ReinXeed hits the nail on the head - “The Light”, “Great Hall Of ReinXeed”, “Eternity”, “Northern Sky” & “Kingdom Fall” come to mind – it does not get much better. The presence of a few too many filler track, on the other hand, in the end hold things back. Production represents another area of improvement worth noting. That said, Tommy Johansson proves a talented (and versatile) vocalist and musician. The main advice to give the artist might be to hire a full time producer, an objective voice that would not hesitate to tap the artist on the shoulder and say, “You know, Tommy, you might want to consider adding a bit more rhythm guitar to the mix. And while you are at it, back off a bit on the keyboards as well.” In all seriousness, with added consistency in the songwriting department and a more balanced production, I can see ReinXeed being a force in the Christian metal scene for years to come.
Track Listing: “The Light” (5:17), “Great Fall Of ReinXeed” (4:28), “Eternity” (4:54), “Northern Sky” (5:40), “End Of This Journey” (4:36), “Legacy” (6:18), “Magic Might” (4:51), “Shyrheny” (4:22), “Kingdom Fall” (10:15), “Heavenly Fire” (2:54)
Tommy Johansson – Lead Vocals, Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Orchestration, Programming & Kitchen Sink
Jani Stefanovic - Drums