Sascha Paeth. If you are at least a little well versed in Metal – and especially Power Metal – that name should ring at least a smaller kind of bell. With that I mean that even if you’re not overly familiar with the guy, something in you should go “I’m sure I have seen that name somewhere”. Sascha Paeth is mostly known from his production duties that includes acts such as Rhapsody, Angra, Kamelot, After Forever and Edguy but also as a guitarist with his own band Heaven’s Gate who released their debut album back in 1989. Today, Paeth is very much Tobias Sammet’s go-to guy in Avantasia where he has helped out with both production, engineering and mixing on all albums plus the fact that he’s that project’s guitar player, both in the studio (where he also contributes with keyboards and some bass) and live. As a guy not very big on European Power Metal, it was through Avantasia – which I love and do not consider Power Metal anymore – I got acquainted with Paeth’s name.
Now, it doesn’t take rocket scientist to figure out in which genres Paeth’s new constellation moves within. If this anything other than a Power Metal band, I will be hugely surprised. With him for this ride he has brought singer Adrienne Cowan, an amazing singer that almost took over the whole show when I saw Avantasia live earlier this year, fellow Avantasia musicians drummer Felix Bohnke and bassist André Neygenfind plus keybooard-player Corvin Bahn. A first quick spin of the record told me that I was right – this is a Power Metal band, European style and I’d be lying if I said I was impressed. But. There must be a few more spins before the final judgement falls – and it has happened many times before that my mind has been changed by just one listen through my head-phones. So head-phones, here comes a few more spins.
The album opens fast, blasting, hard and loud with the leading single and video “The Time Has Come”. And it is an aggressive piece that starts the record. With razor-blade sharp guitars and powerful drums, the song almost goes into Thrash Metal territory in the verses and when the pre-chorus arrives, Cowan’s screamy, growl-like vocals gives me a slap on my face. Power Metal, huh? Not so much. The chorus, however, is more on the melodic side with slight pop-twists in the vocal-melodies but it never gets cheesy, only catchy – and a very good opener. “Die Just A Little”, the latest single, is slower-paced, heavy and dark. It’s powerful and punchy but also at bit laid-back in the verses but as soon as we thought we was in ballad-land, the refrain comes in, all crunchy and tough, very striking and in-your-face with a hooky and memorable vocal-melody. Very good.
And speaking of catchy, “Radar” shows up with an über-catchy, dressed to the nines refrain, sing-along laden and impossible to resist. It reminds me some of early Avantasia and even though it leans towards Power Metal, I have no problem with it. The tune also comes with a groovy and fat rhythm where Metal meets Classic Rock. Great stuff. “Where Would It Be” starts out in a mid tempo but gets faster real quick. It’s a melodic rocker, full of pop-hooks, especially the chorus that stick like super-glue right off the bat. This is heavy pop-metal with memorable melodies glistening without getting even close to mawkish. Good one. “My Anarchy” is a mid-paced metal-groover, heavy yet melodic and here the hooks are everywhere – even the verses are catchy as hell. This means that the chorus is set for a home-run – and it sure delivers on that part. This is very good stuff.
We get some meaty Metal with a crunchy edge when “Wide Awake” shows up. It’s slower in pace, dark and heavy with a vocal melody that partly makes me think of a more metalized Ghost. The refrain sure has one foot in Euro Power Metal and is glossily sing-alongish but despite that it never gets cheesy as the tune stays tough with vigour and punch. The album takes a wide turn with “The Path”, a soft and earthy ballad, stripped with only piano and vocals with a touch of strings in the background. It’s slightly jazzy and recumbent in a sombre and atmospheric mood. Awesome!
Second single “Sick” is gritty, raw and edgy with a whole bunch of chugging Hard Rock riffing. The verses draws towards plain Hard Rock but the refrain is heavy and rough with lots of aggressive, screamy vocals that makes me think of Arch Enemy. It’s a good tune but hardly single-material. I guess they’re making a statement here rather than looking for a hit-song. “Weight Of The World” is chugging Metal that meets raunchy Hard Rock, very bouncy and kicking that comes with a propulsive and pop influenced chorus where the million-bucks hooks makes it stick immediately. It also treats us with splendid organ-solo that brings 70’s Rainbow to mind. Very organic and coherent. Good stuff, indeed.
The biggest surprise to me – and therefore my fave track on the record – is “Bound In Vertigo”. The tune kicks of with a groovy, classic Hard Rock styled Celtic arrangement that brings Thin Lizzy to mind not so little, only for the the verse to take the Metal road right into a very effective and distinct chorus that takes back the Celtic vibes combined with a fabulous pop-twist without losing any heaviness or edge. A very dynamic track – and a damn brilliant one. The closing title-track is a behemoth as well. It starts out on a softer, ballad-like note with only piano and vocals and an atmospheric cello only for it to go raw, heavy and riff-happy and striking hard. The verse comes in, all stompy and groovy rhythmic before it speeds up but it also holds back some. The chorus holds a catchy, musical theatre-like melody that’s also slightly reminiscent of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. All that said, it’s still a crafty and quite heavy number and a brilliant way to end the record.
My first thought when the album had roughed me up through my headphones was, was this the same album I listened through at home? Sure, I didn’t listen to it all that carefully, but nontheless, I listened. What at first spin came through as a dull and in one ear, out the other kind of record became a damn good effort just a couple of days later – a lot better than I had expected. Power Metal? Some might call it that, but I sure won’t. To me, this is a Heavy metal album through and through with just a tiny touch of Power Metal here and there – and there was none of those happy-go-lucky soccer-stadium hymn-like refrains at all. Hugely surprised? You bet I am. This is a heavy album – brutal at times but it never lacks hooks, sharp melodies and catchy refrains. As musicians, these guys are flawless, to put things mildly and Adrienne Cowan is simply amazing – what a voice! Let’s hope that this project will continue as a real band and not just a one off album because I see a bright future in the horizon for this lot.