Horizons Edge - Let The Show Go On - (9/10)
Published on February 5, 2019
After a three year break in studio output following the riveting and technically tinged sophomore offering that should have made them a far more visible player in the power metal scene, Australia based masters of the craft Horizons Edge have returned to their colorful world of heroism and fantastical journeys with a formidable followup to their 2015 smash Heavenly Realms in Let The Show Go On. Though at first glance, they may appear to be just another female-fronted band looking to cash in on the craze that was first established by Nightwish and a few others in the late 1990s, the actual musical pictures is far more unique, employing a fair degree of stylistic devices typical to some of their nation’s more consequential acts such as Black Majesty and the now long defunct Dungeon and merging them with a far more technical gloss that dances around between a Stratovarius and Dream Theater inspired gloss, often landing them in musical territory that is fairly comparable to the Russian-based band Ghosthill. The resulting sonic assault that culminates in this latest opus employs the same basic formula as before, but with a higher dose of energy and technical flair.
There are many distinctive features to how this band operates that flows into this albums highly potent and unique sound, which walks that ever so thin line between speed metal and keyboard-infused progressive rock that informs their style. The keyboard work that paints this thing is all over the proverbial map, occasionally mimicking that Jens Johasson character of sound where things just fly around in a manner resembling pure improvisation, but leaning a bit more towards the spacey yet methodical character of Jordan Rudess. This is particularly obvious on the rhythmically nuanced yet occasionally speed-infused title song “Let The Show Go On”, which along with more mid-paced cruiser “Use Me” and the cacophony of dramatic shifts “Demons” comes off a bit closer to a prog metal sound until that signature fanfare chorus approach takes over. Together with generally power metal oriented, more guitar driven yet heavily ornamented anthems such as “Black Hole” and “Surrender”, these songs present a generally interstellar atmosphere comparable to 90s Stratovarius, but are formally about as involved and complex to pass for something that Pagan’s Mind might have put out in the early 2000s.
Having said all of that, the truly overriding factor in this band’s individuality of sound is the amazonian pipes of lead vocalist Kat Sproule. She bucks both typical trends within female metal vocalist circles, avoiding the sleazy feminine answer to Rob Halford of a number of recent American vocalists taking their influences from Doro, as well as the squeaky clean pop diva sound of Elize Ryd and countless others for something that is a bit deeper in tone and forceful in the mode of a female answer to Nils Rue, occasionally even coming off as a tad androgynous at times. There isn’t a single song on here where her highly unique vocal presence doesn’t steal the show, though she really showcases her talents on the more mainline power metal offerings on here such as “A New Day Will Dawn”, the guitar hero infused speed romp “In A Moment”, and the closing prog-infused epic “Bring Me Home”. There is also a rather auspiciously amped up rendition of the Bonnie Tyler 80s pop/rock classic “Holding Out For A Hero”, loaded to the brim with wild technical guitar and keyboard passages, but ultimately yet another massive boon for Sproule’s brooding contralto.
This is the sort of album that, while having so much going on that it will probably require several listens to fully comprehend, hits the listener square in the face with the power of a category 5 tornado. If there is any flaw in the approach taken here, it is that it may be a bit too much technical wizardry and triumphant pomp for the average power metal fan to process, but the excesses indulged in by these Aussies costs this album little in the memorability department. It’s greatest appeal will likely be towards the power/prog crowd that particularly goes for the more quick-paced, quasi-Helloween sound of bands like Vision Divine, older Secret Sphere and Labyrinth; though it is not outside the realm of possibility that some of the American female-fronted power metal fanbase that has kept MindMaze, Seven Kingdoms and A Sound Of Thunder at the top of their show attendance list will go for this. At present, this is the greatest thing to come out of this comparatively young yet massively hungry act, though newcomers to their material are also encouraged to check out the album that preceded this as well for a similarly killer listening experience.