Athlantis - The Way To Rock 'N' Roll - (7.5/10)
Published on March 29, 2019
Just about every living soul with access to the internet or a comprehensive library on classical civilization is familiar with the basic story of Atlantis, one that reaches back several millennia to boot. A lesser known and much younger tale is that of a stealth power metal act out of Italy known as Athlantis, a band that arguably glommed onto the mid-2000s hard rock/AOR hybrid with power metal style as early as Masterplan, yet failed to quite achieve the same degree of notoriety as Roland Grapow’s post-Helloween project. This Italian act is also noteworthy for being among the earliest of guitar virtuoso Pier Gonella (an ax slinger of equal competency to that of Grapow and of a comparable Malmsteen-inspired pedigree), so the divide in visibility between this Italian act and its more famous German counterpart may lay in the latter consisting of better known players and greater access to high-end studio toys. Then again, Athlantis’ brand of rock meets metal is a tad less modern and draws greater comparisons to the likes of Messiah’s Kiss and fellow Italian veterans Arthemis, bands more readily associated with the earlier millennial revival of power metal despite having less of a Helloween character to their respective styles.
Given Gonella’s sizable roster of active projects and the somewhat sporadic character of Athlantis’ output since their 2003 debut, it goes without saying that frequent lineup shifts have dogged this band, and their fifth LP The Way To Rock ‘N’ Roll finds them with yet another new vocalist at the helm. This time around, they’ve found a fairly fitting character for the role in Davide Dell’Orto, who is best known for his extensive work with Italian millennial power metal revival act Drakkar, though his session work has brought his into contact with Gonella in recent years via slots on albums by Odyssea and Mastercastle. His voice definitely has a gravely, attitude-based feel to it that is well adapted to more of a straight-line, rocking approach to power metal, having something of a Dio-like quality along the lines of what Chitral Somapala brought to Firewind on Forged By Firewith maybe a tad bit more depth and grit to it. It plays quite well against the generally stripped down arrangement and bare bones riffing style that dominates most of these songs, becoming maybe a bit overdone during the exposed balladry of “No Pain No More”, but otherwise being appropriately raucous and in-your-face during the majority of the album.
In similar fashion to a typical outing courtesy of similar guitar hero oriented albums put out by Magnus Karlsson and Gus G, the songwriting and stylistic inclination here is predictable, though clearly not without its charms. In similar fashion to a typical Mean Streak album (Sweden), Gonella and company start things by going right for the jugular with a raging speeder in “Letter To A Son”, hitting all the typical Judas Priest-inspired sweet spots that one has come to expect from a solid power metal album. However, barring said opener and the somewhat more Deep Purple infused, rock organ driven cooker of a closer “The Way To RnR”, this album is largely mid-paced and leans more towards a grooving feel. There is a fairly upbeat, cliche nod to Helloween’s “I Want Out” to be found in the super catchy anthem “Lady Starlight”, but for the most part the general feel of this album is relegated to fairly safe and restrained nods to 80s rock/metal, with “Forgive Me” and “Black Rose” being standouts, though one would be remiss to gloss over the rather blatant nod to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” that’s all over the principle riff of “Reborn”, albeit with a healthy dose of keyboard sounds and depth thrown in to give it more of an arena feel.
If there is any Persian Flaw that is built into this competent slab of rocking power metal, it’s that it falls into the same basic mold of a number of virtuoso guitarist led albums, namely toning down the elaborate riffing and progression of ideas in the songwriting department to make room for the vocal hooks and the wild technical displays during the solo sections. To Pier Gonella’s credit, he doesn’t go overboard and keeps his shred fests reasonably tasteful and provides a varied spectrum of blues, rock, jazz and classical elements to keep things from getting redundant, but overall this album comes off as fairly safe and by the numbers. It’s well put together, and definitely shows a sizable improvement from the uneven and occasionally overtly derivative of Firewind 2012 outing of this band dubbed M.W.N.D.. Then again, Pier Gonella’s signature playing style plays a bit better to a more epic power metal style, and those who crave his majestic leads will find a stronger showing on the latest Odyssea album or the one off Labyrinth spin-off act Amazing Maze. It’s definitely worth a listen, but doesn’t quite have the same staying power as the seminal outings in this style as seen from Firewind or Arthemis.