Arthemis - Blood - Fury - Domination - (8/10)
Published on April 12, 2017
The career of veteran Italian metal act Arthemis has, up until fairly recently, been inexorably tied to that of Power Quest. Perhaps it was an inevitability given that the two most consequential members of the former were also key players in the latter group during the 2000s, though their respective takes on power metal were a bit different and they were situated on near opposite ends of the European continent. Round about 2008 both bands were bitten by the modernity bug and radical changes ensued, which were immediately followed by the exodus of Alessio Garavello, who provided the pivotal lead vocal work for both acts, and thus began a full divergence in direction between the two as Power Quest revamped their entire lineup save Steve Williams and took the conservative road of trying to regain past glory and were successful for an album before subsequently splitting up, whereas when faced with reforming his entire band, Andrea Martongelli opted to march further down the path of modernity and with a mixed degree of success prior to a five year break in studio output.
Blood – Fury – Domination, the somewhat longtime coming successor to 2012’s We Fight, presents a trifecta of outcomes that could represent the very nature of modern power metal itself. It follows a fairly similar amalgamation of heavy hitting grooves, thrashing riff work and more subtle hooks relative to the Helloween approach that typified the last couple albums, though in a bit more of a quirky electronic yet also grittier mode that is somewhat along the same lines of material put out by Brainstorm, Tad Morose, Mystic Prophecy and Iron Fire of late. The vocal work of Fabio Dessi is a tad bit more forceful than that of Garavello and gets a bit closer to that of Roberto Liapakis, though with a bit more of a high range, but what truly drives this album is the intensity of the instrumentation working behind the singing and shouting, as chunky and often thrashing riffs collide with a precise and powerful kit display out of fellow Power Quest alumni Francesco Tresca, not to mention a rather chunky and technical bass display out of the newly recruited Giorgio Terenziani.
The assortment of metallic goodies rounding out this listen are consistently impact based, save the sappy token ballad “If I Fall” which is well realized, if a bit out of place, though fairly varied in spite of their compact time lengths. High impact thrashers are a fairly common occurrence, with the technical and highly ornamented riff monster “Warcry” and the more punchy and modern groove thrashing with a side order of tribal drumming like a better version of a mid-90s Sepultura effort “Firetribe” being the most overt of the pack. Then again, somewhat more grooving and mid-paced numbers like “Blistering Eye” and “Dark Fire” explode into a few furious sections and feature a lot of Bay Area inspired riffing, though often trading blows with a heap of technical shredding and Neo-classical tinged harmonies via Martongelli, proving himself to be one of the most criminally underrated guitarists on the scene (though Terenziani’s bass noodling on “Dark Fire” is no slouch either). The technical flair and busy riffs even find themselves making way for a couple of catchy rockers in “Undead” and almost metalcore inspired heaviness of “Into The Arena”.
It is rather interesting to note that this album presents its title as a sort of pretentious triple punch, yet it is actually the strongest effort out of the three albums that make up the current era of Arthemis. This has a lot of the same elements that made Nocturnal Rites’ The Grand Illusion a rather atypical musical affair for 2005, though this is not quite as catchy and leans a bit heavier on the guitar and bass as virtuoso instruments in spite of the songs all being tailored to sub-five minute territory. A more current basis of comparison would be Brainstorm’s Firesoul (though that album had a far more compelling ballad) or Mystic Prophecy’s War Brigade if the guitar and keyboard effects were taken out of the equation. This is a band that differentiated itself from the more melodic and symphonic strains of power metal as far back as the late 1990s, and while they’ve since adopted a sound that is a bit more typical by present standards, this incarnation could be poised for great things if they hone the various moving parts in their formula a bit more.