Aldaria - Land Of Light - (9.5/10)
Published on June 26, 2017
The level of disappointment that yours truly has had with the direction that Avantasia took following their second LP can not be understated, but the past 15 years following said album has brought about a number of would be successors outside the purview of Tobias Sammet’s personal whims. Many various projects have come into being following a similar presentation in terms of structure, each providing their own stylistic twist on the concept. But whether it be the lofty D&D imagery of Marius Danielsen’s Legend Of Valley Doom, or the more vague post-apocalyptic feel of Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, a sense of emptiness was still felt that was far from quenched by the lackluster output of Tobias Sammet of late.
A powerful successor with a similar spirit of musicality coupled with a greater technical flair would seem a surprising turn of events, let alone from a place as sparsely populated with power metal acts as Norway, but that is where Aldaria fits into things. Being the brain child of a rather obscure person in Frode Hovd, from a very obscure mid-2000s band Memorized Dreams that is probably best known as the origin of current Pyramaze front man Terje Harřy, expectations are seemingly set more so by guest/session personalities than by the power behind the scenes. With a veritable who is who of power metal vocal and instrumental heavy-hitters from all over Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe, expectations are naturally anything but low.
But for the extended cast of characters that lend their talents to this album, Land Of Light actually manages to carry the day through solid songwriting and infectious hooks, all of which are the handiwork of the presenter himself. In a refreshing departure from the overly safe and measured character that dogged Timo Tolkki’s Avalon and Aina, the name of this album is early 2000s throwback, complete with all the shred happy guitar solos, larger than life keyboard themes and generally fast tempos and triumphant themes. Picture an amalgamation of all the elements that made the seminal works of Freedom Call, Koltipelto-fronted Stratovarius, Edguy, Kaledon and At Vance all rolled into one, then injected with the powerful production work of Serious Black and it all becomes quite clear.
The bright spots on this veritable solar flare of an album are actually rather fitting given tendency that this album has to mirror the structure of turn-of-the-millennium Edguy, in fact, the album almost seems to have been formatted after the model of Theater Of Salvation. A high number of speeders round out the fold, with most of the really riveting ones featuring the thunderous drum work of the all but forgotten Helloween kit maestro Uli Kusch, with “Lost In The Darkness Below” and “Where Reality Ends” being of particular note in terms of sheer velocity. But the most utterly astounding part of this album is the epic closer and title song “Land Of Light”, which not only features the combined vocal talents of Fabio Lione and Dragony’s Siegfried Samer (two singers I thought I’d never hear on the same song), but also the orchestration talents of Peter Crowley (Fantasy Dream), resulting in a fit of symphonic metallic brilliance worthy of a true climax of such an ambitious album.
Naturally this is all merely the tip of a massive ice berg that features an impressive and highly diverse collection of vocalists and musicians that span an, until now, untapped part of the European power metal scene. Perhaps even more consequential than even the fact that Frode managed to get both the current and previous vocalists of Falconer onto the same album is the monumental lead guitar contributions provided by guitarist of the same band Jimmy Hedlund, who manages to outright surpass the fret board majesty that Henjo Richter provided for Avantasia in the early days. This is the sort of power metal album that is almost too much fanfare to handle, and barring an occasional rut into sappy balladry where another speed metal anthem could have been, will remind any stalwart fan of the style why they originally pledged their loyalty to it.