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Review: Aria - Baptism by Fire (2020)
Baptism by Fire (2020)

Label: M2BA
Year released: 2020
Originally released in: 2003
Duration: 57:17
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4.25/5

Review online: November 29, 2020
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers Rating
Baptism by Fire (2020)

Rated 4.22/5 (84.44%) (9 Votes)

I reviewed this as Christening by Fire more than 16 years ago, but I guess the translation of the title has changed. Aria, after all, are a Russian band with Russian lyrics, so you can expect some unofficial/changing translation at times, I guess. This is one of two re-recordings with the current line-up, which includes singer Mikhail Zhitnyakov, who has been with the band since 2011.

Aria play traditional heavy metal with a very strong emphasis on melody and this album is a poster child for the band's style. Clear, loud, soaring vocals with melodies so catchy and powerful that they seem to have the instruments in tow, and when I say catchy, I mean it: This may be sung in Russian, but you have that urge to sing along as the singer sweeps you off your feet with his powerful delivery. The music is a good mix of crunchy heavy metal that sometimes surprises you by pushing the heaviness up a few notches, when it's not dropping into a hyper melodic look unexpectedly. I've found this is something you need to get used to with Aria: They'll get you going down a path and then suddenly break out into a run into a different direction without any warning. Sometimes that works, sometimes it's a bit annoying. Sneaky. How does this all compare to the original version from 2003? Well, in short Mikhail has a more powerful and convincing vocal delivery that really adds a lot of power to the songs, and musically the band has only grown better and that's reflected in how they're playing here, sticking to the original songs and just making them better by sheer musicianship.

With such clean and powerful vocals sung in Russian, it takes a bit of getting used to Aria's sound, but it's well worth it (I don't think they sing about anything objectionable ;)). If you own the original and still need some convincing, there's a bonus track, "Battle Field", that clocks in at nearly six minutes. It's a little slow as an album closer, but it's a beautiful and emotional song and despite it being on the slow side, its solemn vibe and Mikhail's great vocal performance nonetheless more than make up for that.

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