TIME REQUIEM – THE INNER CIRCLE OF REALITY

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Out now on Regain RecordsOriginal review published in 2004

Keyboard whiz Richard Andersson returns with the second Time Requiem album – “The Inner Circle Of Reality”. The bands debut from 2002 was a superb slice of progressive neo-classical metal with a strong Malmsteen overtone to it. “The Inner Circle Of Reality” sees the Malmsteen-esque sound being replaced by a sound more inline with the likes of Symphony X or Adagio (of whom Andersson contributed solos for Sanctus Ignis). This is however much more keyboard led than either Symphony X or Adagio and this is what keeps Time Requiem original in a highly competitive genre.

The band has seen a couple of personnel changes with bassist Jonas Reingold and Zoltan Csörsz in the drummers seat. The album was recorded and mixed by Reingold and Andersson and the sonic results are very powerful.

Opener “Reflections” is sure to please all fans of Symphony X thanks its intricate riffing and powerful vocals courtesy of Apollo Papathansio (a cross between Jorn Lande and Russell Allen), this is a very intense track that just begs to be cranked up.

Title track “The Inner Circle Of Reality” is an epic in every sense, clocking in at over 11 minutes it takes you through a myriad of levels thanks to its very progressive nature. The verse is quite superb with a very classy melody line and this gives added weight to the package. The track has a slight neo-classical feel in places which is sure to make fans of the bands debut feel right at home. At around the six minute mark Richard Andersson takes us back to 70’s Prog with a keyboard solo that is quite Rick Wakeman. This then moves into territory similar to that of U.K. with some greet Mini Moog-esque sounds being used before guitarist Magnus Nordh comes in with a smooth legato filled solo. This causes Andersson to up his chops and we are flying high! The track then leads back into another verse and chorus and the track comes full circle.

“Dreams Of Tomorrow” starts with a dark mystical quality with harpsichords, horns and cymbal crashes, close to Adagio, a dark nature lends itself to Apollo Papathansio delivering a very classy vocal. The track has a superb chorus, which sees a great musical progression underneath. The track is a bit more guitar led than the other numbers and this helps make the riff stand out. The solo sections see some blazing duels from Nordh and Andersson. Andersson’s solo here being positively blinding.

The trademark Time Requiem sound leads us into “Attar Of Roses”. This track has a very majestic quality to it (in both sound and reference to Majestic – Andersson’s previous band). The neo-classical overtones are here in spades and make you realise just what a special partnership Richard Andersson and Yngwie Malmsteen could have if they ever get around to hooking up! The solo section sees all manner of classical inflections from Andersson and makes you realise why he is at the top of the metal keyboard player rostrum. But it’s the strength of the verse that really makes the track quite superb.

“Definition Of Insanity” begins with keyboards and drums setting a heavy prog setting. This transcends into a progression that fans of Dream Theater will appreciate right away. The track is up-tempo but is the most mainstream sounding track on the album – catchy metal with progressive overtones.

“Quest Of A Million Souls” sees Andersson lay down some sublime keyboard solos. What sets this guy apart from a lot of metal crowd is his ability to add a very human lyrical quality to his work. This is achieved by making great use of the pitch wheel and sounds that although familiar seem warmer than the average synth tone. The almost ballad nature of the track does offer some rest from the frantic work found elsewhere, but the classical influences again rear there head on the chorus chord progression.

“Hidden Memories” you just know is gonna be killer from as soon as the initial keyboard pattern rings out. I hear shades of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells here as well as a little Images & Words era Dream Theater in the intro. This is thrown out the window for the relatively simple verses and a chorus that manages to combine frantic double bass drum work with a simple vocal melody line. Then a variation on the intro comes back and you realise how well the blend works. Andersson’s keyboard solo really hits all the right notes, with an almost Malmsteen feel to the way he can extend passages and yet maintain the interest of the listener.

A short instrumental piece between Andersson and bassist Jonas Reingold for” Bach Prelude Variations”. Short, classic, and a nice way to end the album.

With The Inner Circle Of Reality, Time Requiem has managed to add another extremely strong album to their discography. I probably prefer the bands’ debut a little more due to the slightly more neo-classical nature of it, but there is a lot to absorb and enjoy on this release. The band are obviously maturing and honing their sound to something that Richard Andersson’s ideal vision represents and it’s a ride that is a very rewarding one.

Hot Spots : Reflections, The Inner Circle Of Reality, Attar Of Roses, Hidden Memories.
Rating : 90%

TIME REQUIEM – TIME REQUIEM

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Out now on Regain Records
Original review published in 2003

Led by keyboard wizard Richard Andersson, Time Requiem’s self titled debut album is everything that Andersson felt Majestic were not. What we have is a dark deeply classical prog power metal release. Whilst leaning more towards Adagio than Artension, Time Requiem is pure quality from start to finish.

Complex arrangements meet head on with classy vocals from Apollo Papathanasio for such captivating melodies as on the title track and “Watching The Tower Of Skies”. Think of Andersson as the Yngwie of the keyboard world, this is packed full of his keyboard flurries but this guy has soul making great use of the pitch wheel. To hear this guy on a Yngwie album would be pure magic. In the meantime this album will satisfy and look out for a new studio album and live album over the next couple of months.

Fans of Adagio, Symphony X and Yngwie Malmsteen pick this up a.s.a.p.

Rating – 92%

IRON MASK – HORDES OF THE BRAVE

Out now on Lion Music

Originally released in 2005 and reviewed on the old incarnation of Virtuosity One (posted 23/8/2005), here is a timely reminder now the album has received a limited edition digipack reissue on Lion Music which is available now.

Dushan Petrossi has been extremely prolific over the last few years, first was the debut Iron Mask release ‘Revenge Is My Name’, the 2004 Magic Kingdom release “Metallic Tragedy” was one of the highlights of the year and now Dushan has gone and released another cracker.

The second Iron Mask album entitled “Hordes Of The Brave” sees Mr Petrossi raise the bar once again for his own compositions. The album sees a much more powerful production than the debut, the song writing is better and the overall performances are superb. Strictly speaking this is a classic neo-classical release with hints of power metal and more commercial waters, the mix between lead guitar glory and riffing is excellent, with the emphasis always being “for the track” from Dushan.

Petrossi has brought in a stunning new vocalist in the form of Goetz Mohre who is actually an old friend of guest vocalist Oliver Hartmann (ex At Vance). There is also the appearance of virtuosityone.com favourite Richard Andersson for keyboard solos. Dushan has again utilised the excellent rhythm section of Magic Kingdom (Vassili Moltchanov and Anton Arkhipov).

Opener “Holy War” sets the tone with his neo-classically fused opening riff before turning into more straightforward Painkiller era Judas Priest for the verse, the chorus is classic Power Metal. The track is not the most subtle on the album and by no means the strongest but it does make a solid statement of intent and Petrossi’s soloing really grabs the attention.

“Freedoms Blood – The Patriot” is where the album starts to fire on all cylinders with its superb riff, with nice keyboard orchestration, this leads into a great straight riffing verse and a good pre-chorus before the anthemic chorus has soaring vocals from Goetz Mohre. The solo is simply superb opening with a classical motif from Dushan before the first of Richard Andersson’s solos floors you. Petrossi answers this charge with equal aplomb almost melting his fretboard, but make sure you check out the attention to detail in the backing – for the record this solo duel is a throw back to prime Rising Force trade-offs between Malmsteen and Jens Johansson.

“Time” sees the pace slow and the mood get more melodic for this excellent slice of straight metal. Petrossi shows great depth as a writer here, and the performances from all involved are first class. The transition between verse/pre-chorus/chorus is superb and fans of acts like Masterplan will absolutely love this.

“The Invisible Empire” has another cracking riff yet with the emphasis on melody, not a million miles away from Eclipse-era Malmsteen in this respect. Again the vocal melody is a vital part of the track and the vocal delivery from Oliver Hartmann’s first appearance makes a lasting impression. The guitar solo is another gem seeing Dushan work well with the backing provided beneath. A brief instrumental segment paves way for another solo from Richard Andersson which sees his trademark use of the pitch wheel work to good effect, overall an excellent track.

The breakneck “Demon’s Child” sees the tone enter more into epic metal territories of the likes of Rhapsody before the strong neo-classical middle section leads us into another bout of frantic solo trading between Petrossi and Andersson – great great stuff.

“High In The Sky” is another powerhouse track that the likes of Iron Maiden would kill to own, its simple riff allows Goetz Mohr to really show what he can. This guy has a killer pair of lungs based somewhat between that of Jorn Lande, Bruce Dickinson with a hint of DC Cooper too, this track is likely to be contender for track of the 2005.

“Alexander The Great-Hordes Of The Brave” is an epic a track as the title would suggest with its dark, mystical slow tempo overtones that is testament to the skills Petrossi possesses. The track has everything in it with the slow pre-solo segment really upping the atmosphere before one of Dushan’s best solo’s on the album really cut through…excellent stuff.

Fans of Odyssey era Malmsteen will love “Crystal Tears” beginning with its majestic keyboard refrain before Dushan’s Strat doubles the riff. This could have come straight from Malmsteen’s “Odyssey” such is the quality. Oliver Hartmann’s voice works the vocal melody to its full giving a great delivery. Dushan conjures up a suitably skilled solo which stays true to the melodic nature of the track yet manages to squeeze enough fretboard excess to satisfy the most hardcore of virtuoso guitar fans. The classy chorus sees the track out.

“Iced Winds Of The North” kicks off with some chilling sound effects before a fast intricate riff smacks you in the face. There is a nice neo-classical / power metal vibe here, the lyrics tell tales of yore with Hartmann and Mohr duet-ing on the track. The solo section is again straight from the top drawer, consisting of a Celtic feeling single note motif (not to dissimilar to Malmsteen’s Braveheart).

The energy level and mood drops considerably for the power ballad “My Eternal Flame” which has a great European sound to it reminding me of the some of the great Scandi-metal acts such as Treat or Zeelion. The reduced tempo of the track allows Dushan plenty of space to throw in an emotional solo and he comes up with a gem of a solo, very melodic and classical in nature making nice use of harmonisation which makes the song classier. The great heartfelt chorus takes a modulation up and sees the track out.

Album closer “Troops Of Avalon” is another gem, starting with a riff that is quite Schenker-esque (think Captain Nemo) before it turns into a more metal delivery. As the title might suggest the track tells the tale of brave soldiers on a mission, the triplet led chorus has a nice regal touch. The vocal delivery from Goetz is again top notch showing great gusto and power which helps keep the track moving along at a cracking pace and closes the album in fine style.

‘Hordes Of The Brave’ is simply a superb ride through neo-classical and power metal territories that doesn’t see the quality drop anywhere throughout the 11 track on offer. Dushan Petrossi is now a very serious force top be reckoned within the neo-classical/power metal genre and this album should see the Malmsteen-clone tag ripped up and thrown in the bin as it (along with Metallic Tragedy) clearly apparent that Petrossi has his own sound and vision.

Simply if you want a cracking slice of neo-classical power metal then “Hordes Of The Brave” is an essential purchase.

Hot Spots : Freedom’s Blood, The Invisible Empire, High In The Sky, Crystal Tears
Rating : 95%

ASTRAL DOORS – JERUSALEM

Out now on Metalville Records.

Hitting their 10th anniversary, Swedishn traditional metallers Astral Doors celebrate their sixth studio album with “Jerusalem”.  If you’re new to the band, simply said they are straight up classic metal ala Dio/Tony Martin era Sabbath or Dio.  A classic guitar/Hammond tag team over a driving rhythm section coupled with the vocals of the Dio/Jorn Lande-esque Nils Patrik Johansson, a fine vocalist who just happens to have sung on some of my favourite albums with Richard Andersson’s Space Odyssey.

“Jerusalem” for the most part is more of the same, bred from the same pot that produced their other works and whilst it may all seem a little too predictable to some, the band manage to maintain your attention throughout with good riffs and strong hooks.  Nothing overtly fancy or pretentious just good riffs, a solid back beat and a charismatic frontman and really its all you need.

The production however is not quite as strong as on earlier albums ala “Of The Son And Father” and “Evil Is Forever” but again not too much to gripe about.

Highlights are plentiful from the opening assault of “7th Crusade”, “Pearl Harbour”.  “Babylon Rise” shows a slight variation in the bands theme taking some unexpected turns.  “Suicide Rime” is sure to get some dandruff flying at gigs whilst fans of epic productions will be well pleased with “The Battle Of Jacob’s Ford”.

Overall album number 6 doesn’t through up any real surprises, yet the quality of song writing is still on a par with albums of yore.  Solid and dependable, get some Astral Doors into your life with “Jerusalem” being as good a place to start as any.

Rating – 84%