Tales of Gaia - Hypernova - (8.5/10)
Published on January 9, 2018
The stereotype of power metal as a sub-genre exclusively focused with dragons and faerie creatures gallivanting through mythical realms and coming to some sort of heroic conclusion is a prevalent one, though also a very inaccurate and unfair one. Nevertheless, there is some basis in reality for just about every stereotype that gets lobbed at any style, and much of it centers upon the more prominent works of the original late 80s European sound as pioneered by Helloween and then further expanded on about a decade later during the revival period. Indeed, some bands even go so far as to embrace this ultra-light side of the grand metallic equation and run with it unapologetically, with acts like Freedom Call and Power Quest coming to the fore at the turn of the millennium, and others such as Twilight Force and Galderia ushering in a sort of second renaissance of the same style in the last few years. With a laser-like focus on lofty melodies, fast-paced speed metal underpinnings and technical brilliance, these bands both establish and maintain this cliché, and raise a heck of a ruckus while doing so.
A caveat that should be added to this stylistic standard is that there is a level of division that occurs nationally, with each respective scene adding their own respective quirks into the mix. Within the Italian scene, the impact of the symphonic school led by Rhapsody of Fire and the progressive strain headed by the likes of Labyrinth and Secret Sphere cannot be ignored, though all share a common tendency towards extremely high and flamboyant vocalists. This is particularly relevant in the case of the newly hatched Spanish power metal act Tales Of Gaia, a band name fit for association with every aforementioned band in this review, shares common traits with every single one to their most logical conclusion, yet particularly so in the case of the Italian school. After launching a trial EP independently a couple years back, this fantasy-obsessed outfit has taken their collective fixation with magic from the olden realms to the future ones of the cosmos with their debut LP Hypernova, ending up in musical territory highly comparable to Power Quest’s Magic Never Dies, yet also upping the ante in just how campy the concept can become.
Though this album largely functions as a throwback to the climactic period of the power metal revival circa 2002 up until around 2005, it comes with several time appropriate updates that make for a fresh and current experience. The obligatory instrumental intro “Prelude To Salvation” has all the makings of the intro to Helloween’s first Keepers album, but the orchestral texture is much larger and realistic, not all the far off from the ones that adorn the works of Ensiferum and Equilibrium of late, and what it paves the way for proves similarly amped up in terms of production and pomp. High octane speeders like “Keep The Dream Alive”, “Soldiers Of Light” and “A Thousand Miles Away” all hit that majestic intersection where the faster fringes of Stratovarius and Freedom Call intersect, while more mid-paced rockers like “City Of Dreams” and “Wings Of Fire” present versions of that classic “Out In The Fields” sound that Helloween was the first to glom onto, repackaged into a cleaner and more keyboard oriented approach that plays into the same general fantasy world of Power Quest.
Arguably the one point where the exaggeration of this band’s sound that may prove a stumbling block for even the more Freedom Call oriented power metal fanatics and that is the helium-infused, retro 80s glam meets operatic vocals of Nestor Catala. The closest analogous voice in the power metal world would be that of Pandaemonium’s Daniel Reda, arguably one of the more cartoonish voices to come out of even the generally flamboyant Italian scene. To say that this voice type is an acquired taste goes without saying, though it tends to come off as slightly less abrasive within a stylistic context closer to the speed metal with limited orchestral additives style heard out of Freedom Call, as can be observed in the Italian act Seven Gates, which sounds fairly similar to Tales Of Gaia instrumentally speaking. There are points where Catala’s voice is a bit more restrained, such as the seven minute epic speeder and slightly reworded yet de facto title song “Hyperspace” and even gets slightly gritty at times on the closing cruiser “Black Standards”.
This isn’t just power metal for power metal fans, it’s a very specific and fairly limited niche within the power metal world that is being played to, and will naturally elicit a negative reaction in both traditionalist heavy metal fans who want some grit to go with their grandeur after the Manowar variety, as well as with the fans of harder-edged speed metal who want grit and maybe a small helping of grandeur here and there in a fashion in line with the exploits of Grave Digger and Paragon. Be this as it may, the best kind of metal will always be a polarizing affair, so as over-the-top and heroism-obsessed as Tales Of Gaia may be, they’ve planted their flag on something that will naturally appeal to its intended audience and offers up zero apologies. If the latest efforts of Cellador and Power Quest have made their way into one’s collection, it would behoove such a person to give Hypernova a seat in the captain’s ready room.