|Review: Excalion - High Time|
Label: Limb Music Products
Year released: 2010
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: March 8, 2010
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Rated 3.81/5 (76.3%) (27 Votes)
Excalion is awesome. Truly, they have discovered the tragically lost secret to making music: just write good songs. And I'm not one of those people who bitches about modern music even though I wasn't alive when the music I like was around, no. I'm saying this with as pure an intention as any critic ever had – Excalion have crafted a marvelously enjoyable work that makes no claims, indulges in no gimmicks and does nothing at all except provide the listener with a collection of the best songs they could write. The band, for the uninitiated, plays melodic Power Metal in a style that, while not completely removed from the mold set by Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica in the late 90s, has a very cool, fresh take on the style that I find incredibly enjoyable. High Time, their latest opus, continues this trend with a mighty, sterling force.
This band just kicks ass...picture lush melodic guitars with more punch to them than is usual for the Finnish Power Metal echelon, topped off with kicking drums and the lovely vocals of Jarno Pakkonen, who has a deep, commanding bellow of a voice that articulates every note, every line with deadly accuracy and 100% power. The keyboards on here are more prominent than on the band's last opus Waterlines, but they're never overused – merely added to the songs for extra flair and style, fit into each one's self-contained theme and musical motif. Witness the foggy, patriotic mist layered over "The Flags in Line" and "The Shroud," and then compare that to the poppy, romantic bliss of the keys on "Firewood," or the weirdly dreamlike oddness of those on "Quicksilver." Every song has a unique stylistic nuance to it that makes this album consistently engaging. If you're like me, you won't be bored with this at all.
I originally said I didn't like the production on this album quite as much as on Waterlines, but that isn't a detriment to High Time, as Waterlines had one of the best productions I've ever heard on a Power Metal album, with its heavy-handed guitar attack. The guitars on here aren't as thick, but then, maybe they don't have to be – the wider, more open breadth to this album has grown on me quite a bit from my initial plays, and the interplay between the band's chugging, hard rock-styled riffs and the wonderful keys is just mouth-watering.
Jarno is right at the front of the mix, always belting out the surprisingly cool, albeit somewhat stereotypical, lyrics, and he sounds great as always, never missing a beat. One thing I always loved on Waterlines was the tight, complex melodies of the vocals, and those are in full force here. The phrasing of the lyrics is great, with rich hooks and winding, complex writing alike. The vocal melodies are never obvious, never talking down to the listener and always interesting, always exciting to hear. If you ask me in six months, maybe my opinion will have changed, but as it stands, I think this album is actually stronger than its predecessor in that department. The melodies soar higher, reach further and create a greater atmosphere.
That's the thing with this. I don't know how this album will fare up over time, and so I don't want to give it a 5 and leave the band no room to improve in my mind, but this is on equal footing with Waterlines in terms of enjoyment. Both albums have a few songs that don't stack up to the rest of them, but then, none of those songs seriously detracts from the overall experience – one of undeniable reward. With great songs like the adventurous opening trio, the gloomy "The Shroud" and the jaw-dropping ending duo of the show-stealing "Quicksilver" and the just plain old kick ass "Foreversong," High Time will be on rotation in many a Power Metaller's playlist for months and months to come. Highly recommended.
|Other related information on the site|
|Review: High Time (reviewed by Bruce Dragonchaser)|
Review: Primal Exhale (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Waterlines (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Waterlines (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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