|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: Slovakia|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Signum Regis|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
It’s not easy being a European power metal band. In the company of giants like Blind Guardian, Helloween, Stratovarius and Rhapsody Of Fire, an up and comer such as Slovakia’s Signum Regis can potentially get lost in the shuffle and struggle to receive the notoriety that is its due. The groups capabilities, nonetheless, are not overshadowed as a result, particularly when factoring how Exodus, its third full length album (and first on Ulterium Records) from the fall of 2013, proves no slouch when placed alongside the best the previously referenced have to offer.
The initial inclination, of course, is to label Signum Regis “European power metal” since they A) hail from Europe and B) perform power metal. However, this might be an oversimplification in that repeat listen to Exodus reveals a bit more than meets the eye. Specifically, a power metal foundation does imbue the Signum Regis sound but also aspects of speed, classic and melodic metal in addition to occasional progressive and jam-fusion instrumental overtones. The group, in other words, is power metal and a whole lot more.
That more expeditious side to the Signum Regis songwriting abilities can be found in “Enslaved”, with its relentless tempo and double kick drum action, and “The Promised Land”, maintaining the breakneck mentality but laced with symphonic and classical arrangements. “Wrath Of Pharaoh” represents another barnburner in featuring guitars of a classic metal variety (and creates one of the albums more intense listening experiences in the process).
“Let Us Go”, upheld by heavy hitting riffs galore, and “Mountain Of God”, bringing a technical low-end emphasis, also deliver quite the wallop but back away from the high-octane leanings. “The Ten Plagues” and “Exodus” give rise to the near perfect combination of mid-paced heaviness and melody (and rank with the albums best from their immediately recognizable choruses), while Helloween cover “Soul Survivor” approaches things from an epic standpoint (and proves as powerful track as you will find).
“Song Of Deliverance” even brings some light progressive touches, reflected in its multiple instrumental sections - the first of which is galloping and second guitar harmony based - that help carry things past the seven minute mark. Speaking of which, instrumental “Last Days In Egypt” finds Signum Regis stretching musicianship wise with moments ranging from the jazzy to the jam based to the calmer to the heavier.
As its namesake implies, Exodus is a concept based around the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, something I am sure you picked up from the song titles. No, Signum Regis might not be the first metal band to approach the matter - Israel’s Amaseffer in 2008 released Slaves For Life, the first in a three part progressive concept series detailing the subject - but does so concisely by focusing on the key parts to the story. Song titles, obviously, give things away, but topics covered include Moses’ call from God, the struggle for freedom from slavery, demand to Pharaoh, escape from Egypt and subsequent resulting freedom.
While I stand by my 90% review of Slaves For Life, Amaseffer might have been guilty of going into a bit too much detail. Not so with Signum Regis, who sidestep the dramatic interpretations, orchestral arrangements and Middle Eastern instrumentation characteristic to Slaves For Life. Rather, the group takes the more easily accessible and song-orientated approach without the lengthy song arrangements and intricacies that can lead to a cumbersome listen (I suggested in the Slaves For Life review that it is an album you take on an extended road trip for a reason).
One aspect helping each of the Exodus tracks stand out is how Signum Regis goes the “vocalist by committee” route. The group proves successful in this regard by matching the right vocalist with the right song in terms of style and direction. Lower-register vocalists such as Thomas L. Winkler (Gloryhammer) and Mayo Petranin (Castaway) combine with those bringing a mid-ranged flavor, including the gritty and raspy, Michael Vescera (Obsession) and smoother, Matt Smith (Theocracy). High end and soaring is also represented, Eli Prinsen (The Sacrificed, Sacred Warrior) and Lance King (ex Pyramaze, Balance Of Power), along with the versatility female vocalist Daísa Munhoz (Vandroya) brings.
Musicianship is another high point. I appreciate how Signum Regis is low-end driven in allowing the rhythm section of bassist Ronnie König (bestowing bass lines that literally breath in the mix) and drummer Jaro Jancula (as technically proficient a timekeeper as you will find) to showcase their abilities. Filip Koluš is no slouch on guitar either, as his punctuating rhythm guitar sound and varied lead work (including soloing that ranges from the fast paced to the bluesy to the neo-classical)a aptly attests.
As far as concept albums go, Exodus is a solid and efficient work. I appreciate how Signum Regis sticks to the basics by focusing on the songs without indulging in any of the dramatization, narration and shorter interlude pieces that can clutter concept albums. Ultimately, everything is done with quality in mind (including the impeccable production and eye catching cover artwork) in emphasizing just enough detail but not to a fault. Those into power metal or that with a slant towards the melodic, speed and classic side of things will be well served by checking Exodus out.
Track By Track
Album opens to “On The Nile”, a short instrumental carried by acoustic guitar, woodwinds and flowing water in the backdrop.
“Enslaved” sets the mercurial front to back tone. Galloping riffs prevail, aligning with double kick drum action and vocalist Thomas L. Winkler’s gruff and hearty delivery to help add to the epic essence at hand (in the same manner as Winkler’s band Gloryhammer).Tempo only backs off for the start of the instrumental section carried by a spicy run of lead guitar. Lyric snippet:
All has changed when new king came to power
Deeds of our fathers he ignores
Viceroy Joseph's nobody to him
He hates us
Now we're enslaved
Crushed and dismayed
Forced labor we must do
It's hell what we go through
There's nothing we can do
“The Promised Land” starts slowly to classical overtures and choir-vocals that give way to mega tight guitar harmonies. The song romps at an upbeat tempo the rest of the way, lending a slight symphonic touch with its use of keyboards and vocal melodies underpinning its sweeping chorus. Michael Vescera exhibits good range with his gritty vocal delivery. Lyric snippet:
Never I thought I could be
Still I cannot believe
I am the chosen one
Chosen by our Lord
He heard the cry of his children
He's seen what's been done to them
Surely He visited
The Kingdom on the Nile
Driving heavy hitter “Let Us Go!” jumps out of the gate to sledgehammer riff action. The song maintains the sledgehammer mentality moving forward, pummeling and no-nonsense in feel with Göran Edman fitting the aggressive environs with his heavy-set flavorings. Instrumentally, “Let Us Go!” descends into edgy guitars and keyboards prior to a stretch of brazen lead guitar. Lyric snippet:
Better you not
Ignore our words
For you don't want to learn
Lessons I give you with my rod
Hear Pharaoh now what we say: LET US GO!
God's on our side you shall obey, LET US GO!
In God we trust
Him we will worship
He will redeem us
Always He keeps the covenant
“Wrath Of Pharaoh” ranks with the albums heaviest from its classic metal edged guitar tones and every bit as fitting battering drum sound. Notching up the intensity level is the high pitched and soaring vocals of Eli Prinsen (he really stretches and hits the high notes here, sort of like Sonny Larsen). In contrast the chorus smoothes out in almost lending a commercial feel. Lyric snippet:
Do you think I'm foolish?
And I’ll let you go?
I am ruler of the Nile
I make your lives bitter
And your bondage hard
I will bury you alive
All Hebrew sons shall you cast into the Nile
I watch as they die with a smile
Pharaoh, feel my wrath, I shed your blood
Pharaoh, almighty and divine
“The Ten Plagues” presents with album best combination of heaviness and melody. Guitars almost approach ”Wrath Of Pharaoh” in terms of aggression, while Matt Smith’s even but mid-ranged vocals help lend to the deep rooted sense of melody (chorus is by far the albums catchiness, which should not surprise considering the accessibility that is Smith’s band Theocracy). This reviewer’s choice track. Lyric snippet:
If you don't let us go,
To worship our God,
You will see major signs
The water shall turn to blood
Lice shall rise from the dust
Hordes of frogs come out of water
Hailstorm shall strike the ground
No cure for plague of boils
No hope when thunder spoils
No escape from the darkness
No point to fight our God
Instrumental “Last Days In Egypt” delivers its share of variety and allows the band to showcase its musicianship in the process. A jam based feel abounds throughout, with highlighting keyboards, trenchant bass lines, brazen guitar passages and those taking a quieter turn playing lead roles. A fitting run of jazzy but fast paced soloing rounds things out.
Lance King gets my vote for best vocal performance on “Exodus”. I appreciate how he mixes things up, adding an element of lower-register grit for the songs edgy verses only to extend and soar upon obtaining its regally tinged chorus. Melody is the first word that comes to mind, particularly for the extended run of searing lead work (played with a great deal of emotion). Lyric snippet:
Heading for our freedom, pursued by the enemies
As we go across the Red Sea,
Pharaoh shall taste our victory
Six hundred chariots,
With warrios on them all
Surrounded by clouds
And by water walls
They all ran for their doom, straight to the waters grave
All of them found their tomb, none escaped that rave
Heartfelt and forthright demeanor of female vocalist Daísa Munhoz lends a worshipful element to “Song Of Deliverance”. Chorus best reflects this with its line “Give thanks to the Lord. For He is good. His mercy endures forevermore”. Underpinning things, of course, is non-stop and rapid-fire double bass. You will find a progressive aspect as well, reflected in the time signatures to a lengthy instrumental interlude helping carry things past seven minutes (a second one closing the final minutes slows to a crawl with piano leading the way).
Jaro Jancula puts in an incredible drum performance on Helloween cover “Sole Survivor” (very assertive with plenty of technical rolls and fills). The song, otherwise, proves every bit heavy set with its unremitting riff action and epic demeanor in abundance. Vocally, Samuel Nyman brings the perfectly balanced range for the song (not too high but not straining towards the low-end either with plenty of projection and power in between).
Brusque and raspy would be the best way to describe the work of front man Mayo Petranin on “Mountain of God”. The song, interestingly, opens to some Middle Eastern flavorings prior to picking up to the trenchant mid-paced tempo that carries the rest of its way. Some impressive bass lines can be found throughout, particularly at the start of the instrumental section featuring edgy guitar harmonies. Also of note is the heartily delivered chorus at the end.
Review Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “On The Nile” (2:18), “Enslaved” (4:48), “The Promised Land” (5:33), “Let Us Go!” (4:05), “Wrath Of Pharaoh (4:02)”, “The Ten Plagues” (4:46), “Last Days In Egypt” (3:52), “Exodus” (4:16), “Song Of Deliverance” (7:01), “Sole Survivor” (4:35), “Mountain of God”