|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin:|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Scandinavian Metal Praise|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 65%|
Glory & Power: Part 1, the fall of 2015 sophomore album from Scandinavian Metal Praise, is a pretty compelling package on paper. It specializes in taking traditional hymns and contemporary praise and worship songs and reimagining them in a more up to date and current (i.e., melodic power metal) musical format, includes a bevy of talented (albeit unknown) musicians and vocalists, comes with highly effective cover art and (best of all) is available for free download. Why, then, is the album graded at just 65%? The sum didn’t add up despite the apparent quality to the parts.
A good measure of the problem revolves around the literal plethora of previously released metal and rock praise projects: starting with the early nineties Rock Power Praise series, The Hymns (1990), Christmas Hymns (1991) and Gospel Hymns (1992), but also encompassing Metal Praise (1992) and the self-titled Scandinavian Metal Praise debut (2008). While the previously referenced represent ‘all star’ projects from featuring a host of guest musicians, rock praise albums also attribute to individual artists. The most noteworthy come from Petra, including but not limited to Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out (1989) and Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus (1997), and former Neon Cross guitarist PK Mitchell, All Hail The Power (1994) and All Hail The Power II (2013).
My favorite rock praise album is Radio Scripture (2013) by Rochester, New York vocalist and guitarist Tommy Wales, who goes against the grain to the rock and metal of most contemporary praise releases by taking a straightforward hard rock to bluesy acoustic rock approach instead. The 75% Angelic Warlord review summed up Radio Scripture by reinforcing how the “Wales Road interpretations of traditional hymns and praise and worship classics remains respectful to the originals while adding an element of signature grit and punch at the same time.”
Glory & Power: Part 1, in contrast, does not break the mold to quite the same extent with its melodic power metal meets occasional touches of commercial hard rock and AOR basis. Musically, it is not that far removed from its aforementioned self-titled predecessor not to mention last years Gloriam Dei debut, The Covenant, and Germán Pascual’s 2012 solo offering A New Beginning. Where potential fault lies with the album (in my opinion) is from coming across somewhat predictable and formula by not exploring more diverse musical territory- and (unlike Radio Scripture) fails to set itself apart from the numerous other rock praise releases as a result. In other words, Scandinavian Metal Praise did not consider all potential musical options at hand when factoring the metal scene is not limited to that of the melodic and power variety (more on this later).
Also similar to SMP, Glory & Power: Part 1 features a group of musicians that choose to remain unknown. As a reviewer, I respect the need for anonymity of said performers, albeit it puts a crimp in terms of how much detail I can provide when describing individual songs. Consider, for instance, how in my review of SMP I refer to specific band members as “female lead vocalist”, “guitar player”, “bass player”, “keyboardist” and “drummer” (not that I had any other choice and keeping in mind the same applies here).
Where Glory & Power: Part 1 separates itself is from taking a dual male and female lead vocalist approach as opposed to the lone female vocalist from the debut. The “male lead vocalist” brings a classic tenor voice hinted with occasional traces of grit that compares favorable to Christian Palin (Random Eyes, ex- Essence Of Sorrow). The “female lead vocalist” gives prominence to a classic soprano style that reminds of Daísa Munhoz, who put in a strong performance on the Signum Regis track “Song Of Deliverance” (off Exodus from 2013). I find that using two vocalists as opposed to one adds an element of variety not always present on SMP.
Such is the case with one of the stronger Glory & Power: Part 1 tracks “You Are Mighty”. With pumping bass and symphonic keyboards leading the way, the song highlights a full on melodic presence with its catchy “hallelujah we will rejoice refrain” and majestic milieu throughout. The flashy soloing from the “guitar player” sounds like something Carl Johan Grimmark (Narnia) might come up. “You Are Worthy” comes across equally compelling, the darker and weightier piece delivering added guitar driven punch while upholding similar levels of melodic sensibilities. The “female vocalist” shines in exhibiting the full range to her voice.
My favorite is “Lion Of Judah”. The song proves quintessential melodic power metal, abounding with galloping riffs of a steadfast nature and the resounding upbeat tempo to match. Refrain reflects a sublime if not splendid touch in ranking alongside albums best (the polished vocal melodies add to the engaging feel at hand). The “male vocalist” handles the entire song with the exception of a short bridge at the end in which “female vocalist” steps forward. The “guitar player” adds another stretch of crazy good soloing.
Also of a high caliber but in a melodic metal heading is “Mighty To Save”. Slowing the tempo while allowing keyboards to play a more prevalent role, the song aligns big doses of melodic backing vocals with an awe-inspiring “Saviour He can move the mountains. My God is mighty to save” chorus. Likewise, “In The Presence Of Angels” touches upon melodic metal with its tight guitar harmonies and added use of symphonic keyboards. Some of the albums better moments occur as heavyset guitars underpin choir vocals of a deep and resonant nature.
“Jesus What A Beautiful Name” upholds the quality with its shorter (2:45) epic metal slant. The song starts slow and plodding only to gradually gain momentum until breaking out in a furry of up-tempo malevolence that carries its remaining length. The resolute scene allows “the drummer” to showcase his technical abilities, particularly for the classically influenced instrumental moments. I cannot help but be reminded of Sacred Warrior.
While the six previously referenced tracks set the standard as far as metal praise is concerned, the albums remaining material does not quite maintain the same level of promise. No, it is not a steep drop off, but a dip in quality (in my opinion) is noticeable all the same.
I skip over two songs. “There Is Power In Blood” might be solid as an up-tempo, straight on hard rocker but is also held back by a “second male vocalist” whose gritty and lower register flavorings I find to border on the raw and strained. I would have no problem if the “male vocalist” had fronted the song instead- so perhaps it comes down to a matter of taste. “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” represents a rollicking and non-stop energy burst that due to its brief 2:34 length fails to grow and build to its full potential. I do enjoy, however, the neo-classically influenced instrumental section.
I rate the outstanding four tracks in above average to good territory. “Everlasting God” revels in commercial hard rock and AOR with its bountiful backing vocals and striving for the radio friendly, while “My Redeemer Lives” takes a similar heading but at the more forthright tempo and with guitars playing the greater role. Albums two closing cuts, “Via Dolorosa” and “Pon Aceite En Mi Lampara”, break from the reinterpretation of hymns and praise songs mold. Former has been previously done by Sandy Patty and Rivera Bomma (off Infinite Journey Of Soul from 2013) and stands on its own as a classy mid-paced melodic rocker with lyrics paying tribute to its title:
Down the Via Dolorosa
Called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah
Christ the King,
But He chose to walk that road out of His love
For you and me.
Down the Via Dolorosa
All the way to Calvary
“Pon Aceite En Mi Lampara”, a Spanish song that roughly translates as “Pour Oil In My Lamp”, mirthfully dances its up-tempo length as airy keyboards dance in the backdrop. Cool neo-classical guitar work lends a fitting touch.
Scandinavian Metal Praise leaves little doubt as to its ability to stay true to the ‘metal’ in the ‘metal praise’, but it might do so to a fault from not exploring all options the ‘metal’ label potentially provides. Instead of limiting yourself to melodic power metal, why not also branch out into blues based metal along the lines of Norway’s Sarepta (with Coverdale influenced vocals to match) or up the heaviness into traditional metal territory (classic metal act Saint delivers its share of worshipful moments). While we are at it, how about also exploring aspects of the melodic and extreme (in similar fashion as Divinefire) or melodic thrash and speed metal (sort of like old school Deliverance). It would also not hurt to consider progressive metal as an option- I do not know how a 9 to 10 minute rendering to “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” might turn out, but I am willing to bet it would be more interesting than the two and a half minute version here.
The best way to sum up Power & Glory: Part 1 would be to state that its better material outshines that of the self-titled debut, keeping in mind SMP potentially proves the more consistent front to back effort. That said Power & Glory: Part 1 features stronger production and greater diversity from a vocal standpoint. Things do get a little shaky with Power & Glory: Part 1 in terms of deep cuts, a problem potentially rectified if Scandinavian Metal Praise had pursued more variety in terms of musical direction. Still, do not take my word for it in that I encourage you to check Power & Glory: Part 1 out for yourself- you have nothing to lose when considering how the album is available as a free download.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “There Is Power In The Blood” (3:08), “You Are Mighty” (3:43), “You Are Worthy” (4:44), “Lion Of Judah” (4:42), “Mighty To Save” (3:54), “In The Presence Of Angels” (4:33), “Jesus What A Beautiful Name” (2:45), “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” (2:34), “Everlasting God” (3:19), “My Redeemer Lives” (3:58), “Via Dolorosa” (4:15), “Pon Aceite En Mi Lampara” (3:13)