posted on 3/2009 By:
I'm a finicky bastard when it comes to power metal. I'm not even entirely certain why, to be perfectly honest. It's probably got a lot to do with the fact that I expect the music to actually make me feel powerful. That ain't happening if one of the players' chops ain't up to snuff. Give me bright, smooth riffs that are upliftingly epic; melodic, sweeping solos that damn-near jerk tears; a bass that's actually audible (is that really so much to ask for?); rolling drums that push the momentum with a robust thunder; and most ideally, a singer with a strong, distinctive voice and solid range. If any of these elements flounder at pulling their weight, particularly the last one, you've essentially got a record that's likely to get as much attention from me in the future as a broccoli stalk would from a fat guy at a fried twinkie convention -- neglected and doomed to decay.
The key vocal element singled out above is essentially what brought Lion's Share's latest album to my doorstep. I fully understand this is chiefly guitarist Lars Chriss' baby, started in Sweden back in 1987, but the moment I realized he'd recruited the extraordinary pipes of Nils Patrick Johansson (Wuthering Heights and Astral Doors), I happily jumped on board. Nils has one of those gritty, unique deliveries that's immediately recognizable as his once the first note lifts from his chords: a true sign of the consummate heavy metal vocalist. You'll not hear any trilling falsetto or vampirish crooning from this man, just unfailingly consistent, impassioned singing that falls somewhere between the lower register of Ronnie James Dio and the slightly higher register of Saxon's Peter Byford. And Nils' performance on Dark Hours is every bit as notable as what he's done with any of his other projects, so if you count yourself a fan, his presence here alone should be enough for you to at least check the album out.
As far as the rest of the crew's concerned, I'd say Nils has hooked himself up with yet another worthy outfit. There are a couple of small issues, like the bass remaining buried for much of the mix, and the few moments when things get a bit too "modern" sounding for my tastes (toss the jumpity-jump Fight-like "The Bottomless Pit" right out the window), but Dark Hours truly has an interesting flow from start to finish, and each player's competency level is surly praiseworthy. There's a wealth of catchy choruses, and Chriss' distinct Andy LaRocque-ian lead guitar style adds more than the necessary amount of melodic spice to further drive home the hooks. Other metal influences are worn openly on the sleeve as well. The Empire-era Queensryche lean to "The Presidio 27", for example, or the obvious Dimebag worship in the riffing at the heart of "Space Scam". But it never really crosses the line into pure cloning, because the band's luminous power metal is never more than an arm's reach away.
It's been a really quiet year for me in terms of good, drivin' power metal. That fact alone has made this record stand out a bit more when I've hankered for something more uplifting than my usual fare. But don't let that lead you to believe I'm reaching for it simply because of a lack of competition; Dark Hours is an album I'd say could stand its ground against nearly any of their peers in terms of releasing effective, infectious power metal. If that sounds like your kinda thing, I'd advise you jump aboard as well.
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