posted on 4/2004 By:
Ahh, the joys of eighties heavy metal.
If that poorly structured sentence fragment evoked an enthusiastic response from you, then continue reading this review. However, if you’re not a fan of Power or 80’s Metal, read no further and save your jokes for the next Rhapsody or Helloween release. With that out of the way, allow me to introduce this band. Fraise are a Swedish Power Metal band whose debut album Hellicornia was completely self-financed. Sadly, this is perhaps the only remarkable aspect of this release, as the rest of it is very goddamn average. First and foremost, I must confess that I am not a fan of this type of music. I find very few things that please me about both, 80s and Power Metal. I’ve never been a big Iron Maiden or Manowar fan, so you can feel free to take my opinion with as many grains of salt as you want. Still, I can appreciate a fun album of either of these sub genres for what it is, but in this particular case, there’s hardly anything worth getting excited about.
The production on Hellicornia is nothing spectacular, which isn’t surprising, considering Fraise recorded, mixed and released this album by themselves. However, that is no justification for the obvious flaws in production. The vocals are hard to discern as they are placed very low in the mix. The same can be said of the main guitar, as some of the solos sound very distant from the rest of the instruments.
From looking at the album cover, one wouldn’t expect Power Metal, rather something slightly more serious and dark in atmosphere. These expectations are shattered within the first few seconds of the introductory song, which is nothing more than that, an introduction. The monk chants and typical Heavy Metal synth sounds are a good indication of what’s to come. The second track, (and the first real song), “Set Us Free” is very Maiden-esque, and it ultimately fails to inspire anything but indifference in me. The next song, “Fight With Fire” is slightly more interesting, and sounds just a tad more original. There’s a few bass lines early on in the song that at least add some depth to the track, but the vocals and main guitar riffs are as generic as they come. There’s a solo about a minute before the end of the song, but it sounds very unremarkable and even a bit forced. The next song, “Ice Cold” picks up the pace a bit, and starts off more interestingly than the previous track….until the vocals come in. It is just too obvious that English isn't vocalist Jesper Max's native language. Aside from the grammatically incorrect lyrics, he also has some trouble properly pronouncing a few words here and there. To make things worse, the tone of his voice is as bland as it gets, even in a genre where vocals are notorious for being over the top and downright cheesy. Still, this song is probably a highlight of the album; it’s very hard for me to tell, seeing as how I find all of these tracks to be almost equally dull. The main riff is fun and interesting, but it’s repeated one time too many and becomes boring towards the end. The first song (aside from the intro) that distinguishes itself from the rest of the album is the ballad “July”. Notice my use of the word ballad? Well, I feel bad using that term, as this is only a ballad for Power Metal standards, which isn’t something that really appeals to me. To the song’s credit, it’s probably as creative as Fraise get. There’s moderate use of flute (or some other wind instrument) that adequately accompanies the acoustic guitar. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I have to point out that it’s still a bland song in every way. In fact, this track is almost laughable, as it is obvious that these guys were attempting to sound profoundly emotional, but the horrible vocals and clichéd lyrics keep the band from achieving anything beyond mediocrity. There really is no point in describing the rest of the songs in Hellicornia, as they are all basically the same in terms of structure and composition. It’s almost as if the band followed the unpublished rulebook of Power Metal songwriting but managed to neglect the fun aspects of it.
I almost feel bad for being so harsh on this band, but I can’t possibly recommend this album with a clean conscience; how could I sleep at night? I can guarantee you my opinion isn’t completely clouded by any preconceptions I may have about Power/Heavy Metal. Like I said; I can appreciate a fun Power Metal release for what it is, but I care more about originality than blatant band emulation. Ultimately, I feel Hellicornia is nothing more than B-rate Iron Maiden worship with many touches of Hammerfall and just about every other Power Metal band out there today. This doesn’t break any new ground, and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Hellicornia was fun in any way. Sadly, it’s anything but that.
As I stated earlier, the album's only remarkable aspect is the fact that it was self financed. The cynical bastard in me can’t help but wonder if this was the only way this average band could ever put out an album, as I don’t see how any label could possibly want to release this, especially when there are dozens of bands surpassing what Fraise intended to achieve with this release. If you’re an avid fan of any of the aforementioned bands, then you might want to give this album a try. I suggest you download the sample tracks which can be found on their official website's Download section. Even if you’re into Power Metal, I really don’t think you’ll be all that excited about Hellicornia, as it is extremely generic and by the numbers in every way. If you’re not a fan of Power or 80s Metal, then I don’t know why you’re still reading this, but Fraise are definitely not the band that will make you change your mind about this kind of music.
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