Eufory - Higher And Higher - (8.5/10)
Published on February 27, 2019
There is a fine line that separates old school heavy metal from its newer power-infused cousin, and it’s drawn into the clouds where bands like the Slovak outfit Eufory opt to dwell. About three years prior to the unveiling of their second full length studio LP Higher And Higher, this band basically put the air back in air-born with a debut album that was marked by an airy and keyboard rich atmosphere, something of an anomaly for a band that might otherwise be associated with the AOR-side of power metal as exemplified in bands such as Masterplan and post-Mandrake Edguy. Originally conceived as a Def Leppard tribute band, they did naturally retain that iconic 80s hard rock flavor to their sound to an extent, but the dominant vibe that prevailed was closer to the turn-of-the-millennium power metal take on mixing traditional 80s themes with the newer power metal style, with bands such as Domain and Crystal Ball being among the more obvious points of comparison. However, the passage of time and the experience that tends to go with it can often find a band honing their sound a bit more when it comes time for a follow up, and Eufory’s approach this time around has a greater degree of focus and pizzazz.
As a whole, Higher And Higher presents the same keyboard-rich, Sonata Arctica-like production quality that gave Flying Island Eufory its unique sound, but the songwriting has taken on a more consistent flavor. There is a stronger concentration of up-tempo songs on here that run along similar lines to the average fast-paced Stratovarius banger like “Eagleheart” or “Hunting High And Low”, whereas some of the more down-tempo songs like “Karmic Eyes” and “On A Pyre” come off as mildly progressive in character and might well be mistaken for something by Cloudscape or even Threshold with a few elements shifted around. Vocalist Ľuboš Senko has added a tad more grit to his voice and listens a bit closer to Kai Hansen throughout much of this album, and his interpretation of Lemmy Kilmister’s cigarette-steeped gruff style on their cover of “One More Fucking Time” is surprisingly on point and turns one of Motorhead’s more mediocre songs into something fairly impressive. All of those things considered, the most auspicious development to grace this album is the astounding lead guitar display. It’s literally as if the shades of Impellitteri and Malmsteen that were on display previously have been doubled in concentration.
Song for song, this is far closer to being a full on power metal excursion after the likes of Montany and Stratovarius, as most of the mundane elements have been jettisoned and the remaining ones have been obscured by a more consistent display of top notch musicianship. Iron Maiden influenced epic “Dragon Hearts” and the more speed infused nod to bands like Black Majesty and Axenstar “I Want Out” (no connection to the famed Helloween hit apart from the name) come off as the biggest surprises relative to the last album, and showcase both this band’s proficient usage of keyboards to turn an already heavy sound into a dense, multi-layered one, as well as further exploiting the talents of drummer Miriama Hodoňová, who only had a modest showing on the last album but on here sounds prepped to rival Jorg Michael. Even the ode to rock ‘n’ roll infamy “Dancing Star”, which has the only really lackluster lyrical content on here, really brings home that Stratovarius charm with the best of them. Another song that touches upon the same territory “Louder” takes the musical prowess a step for and mixes in the prototypical sing-along studio atmosphere with a Pyramaze power/prog character that is strangely fitting in spite of itself.
One thing is certain, the Eastern European front of power metal is showing zero signs of wavering any time soon, and the Slovakian scene in particular is seeing some truly strong acts making waves in the style. In a time where many iconic bands like Gamma Ray have slowed their output, whereas others such as Sonata Arctica and Edguy would do well to slow their’s down given the lackluster drivel they’ve been pumping out of late, it may well be the Slavic lands that convince their western compatriots to get their act together. Eufory definitely brings something interesting to the table when compared with the more straight forward acts such as Within Silence and the more impact-based mixture of power and prog exemplified in Signum Regis, putting a greater emphasis on keyboard and flashy lead guitar work and bolstering it all with a tight rhythm section that shows something of an affinity for the retro-80s production character of Queensryche and early Dream Theater. Whether one likes his/her power metal with dragons flying or rock stars shouting to the heavens, as long as the sky is the destination, Eufory will definitely continue to be a band to watch.