Stilverlight - Stilverlight - (9.5/10)
Published on June 29, 2015
All rivers tend to pour into the proverbial ocean, and this holds true as much in metal as it does in any medium of expression where any and all inspiration becomes extremely pronounced. While the rivers that flow into what is currently defined as power metal are many, one can’t help but note the massive one that seems to be sending forth many impressive streams of late, namely the seminal 1990s studio efforts of Blind Guardian. While said band is not yet finished making its own mark on the style, a grand tradition of bands have picked up their mantle of heavy, speed/thrash-leaning, but also epic and multifaceted grandeur has emerged in their wake and put their own unique spin on it, from the more conservative and aggressive works of Persuader to the more pomp laden and dense majesty after the mold of Nightfall On Middle Earth as typified in Orden Ogan and the recently born Evertale. Coming out of this same tradition at almost dead center between the two resulting schools is a Russian act known as Stilverlight that has been toiling on the fringes for several years and has just recently unleashed a certified powerhouse to rival the rest of them.
In much the same fashion as the recent Evertale debut Of Elves And Dragons, the self-titled debut of this Russian trio has all the makings of an instant classic, though in contrast to the former, Stilverlight is an album by a truly green outfit with a very short history. It presents a sound that is fully in line with the speed metal fury as heard on Blind Guardian’s earlier 90s offerings, and actually ups the ante with an even greater degree of rasp and edge out of the vocals and an occasional blast beat to complement the generally fast character of the lion’s share of the songs. But while very much a guitar, bass and drum driven album in the metal sense, it also takes about as much of the latter 90s albums of Imaginations From The Other Side and Nightfall On Middle Earth into account with a heavy degree of orchestral additives and massive vocal choirs that carry the textural precision of recent Orden Ogan works, while have a lead vocal personality in Maxim Palanin that is actually closer to the grit and attitude sound of Hansi Kursch at his most forceful.
As noted, Stilverlight has opted to provide their own twist on the mode of power metal pioneered by Blind Guardian, and it comes in the form of a balancing at between the heavily orchestrated yet aggressive metallic elements and a large presence of folksy acoustic elements that goes well beyond the occasional token ballad. The album’s overture “Unforgotten” spearheads this folk music tendency with a beautiful set of acoustic guitar melodies that are somewhat reminiscent of A Past And Future Secret, but have more of a nostalgic character rather than an overt period music feel, and it gradually evolves into a celebration of orchestral flair before leading into the first full fledged song. This brilliant feel recurs at several key points, particularly the densely orchestrated ballad “One Night Before The Winter” and the somber half-ballad “Nothing But Ruins”, both of which show forth a greater commonality with Orden Ogan’s take on a ballad, but with a greater degree of nuance and development between the guitars and the orchestrations.
But for all the delightful elements found in this album’s deviations from the pack, the area where this album truly shines is when they stick to the more conventional mode of Blind Guardian emulation and go all out in the speed department. There isn’t really any dull moments to speak of from one song to the next, but the faster and more ferocious they go, the better they tend to get. Arguably one of the most exhilarating numbers out of the pack is “Shadowcave”, which has all the speed/thrashing fury of a number of faster songs heard on Somewhere Far Beyond, mixed with a fair degree of orchestral interplay and going fairly heavy on up tempo galloping as well. It’s among the more technically impressive songs found on here, despite being one of the shorter works. That is really the one area where this album turns out to be ever so slightly flawed, there is literally so many grand and majestic epic numbers on here clocking in at over six minutes that it gets difficult to keep hold of everything. Nevertheless, between the speeding twists and turns of “A New Day Will Come” and the gradual grower of about the same scope “Show Me The Miracle”, what rounds this album is a real treat for those who like their metal long, epic and full of intrigue.
Though only the first album in what will hopefully be a long and fruitful career out of this young Russian outfit, Stilverlight is an LP that crosses the boundary into new classic territory. It marks a growing trend among younger bands that are effectively restating the same winning ideas that first rekindled the power metal flame in the 1990s after a period of recession, and shows that in spite of a recent trend to strip the style down for a more AOR oriented sound that power metal is a style that works best when kept as ambitious and as off in its own world as possible. It is somewhat ironic that lyrically this album is actually more focused on real life situations, because musically it stops just short of going off into the same otherworldly place that Orden Ogan tends to go with each release. But whether one seeks after better dreams beyond or to deal with the nightmares in this world, Stilverlight brings a sense of greatness to both eventualities.