Victorius - Heart Of The Phoenix - (8/10)
Published on February 24, 2017
If someone asked me to sum up the sound of modern European power metal with one album – I’d thrust this CD into their face with a stern expression. A giant fiery bird adorns the cover, above which the band’s moniker VICTORIUS gleams proudly. The album is entitled Heart Of The Phoenix and the majority of songs contain the word ‘of’ in the title. And to top it all off – they’re German. From an exterior perspective, this is about as generic as power metal gets. Things follow suit both musically and lyrically – but this is no insult! Modern European power metal is never going to ooze originality, so embrace the generic-ness! Up-tempo, galloping hymns with epic choruses about warriors, swords and rainbows are the order of the day – and boy, don’t we love it!
Despite being Victorius’ fourth full-length album, Heart Of The Phoenix only expands insofar as the production quality, courtesy of Lars Rettkowitz from Freedom Call. It’s a crystal clear, crisp, polished sound with enough grittiness to add a decent crunch to the palm-muted guitars. As should be the case, the vocals are right at the front of the mix, and David’s smooth delivery is warm and welcoming. He is backed by a decent choir at the right points, especially the anthemic “Die By My Sword”, but I can’t help feeling they could have been boosted in volume. Same goes for the drums (though I still find the short snap of that snare drum really addictive!)
The keyboard presence is the most effective element here. It never completely engulfs the metal in flowery pomp, but it adds the necessary accents here and there to elevate the album from ‘cheesy’ to ‘epic’. The constant synth presence in “Sons Of Orion” is such an interesting layer, and the brass stabs in “Hero” are absolutely irresistible. Of course, I can’t let the dual guitar attack of Dirk and Flo go unnoticed. Praise to their ultra-fast double strumming, headbang-worthy riffs (“Beyond The Iron Sky”), and absolutely blazing solos that are littered throughout the record.
It’s difficult to pick out particular highlights because each song delivers the goods satisfactorily, and without seeking to disparage the German quintet, are almost indistinguishable from each other quality-wise. The hard-hitting “Empire Of The Dragonking” takes a more grandiose stance with its marching chorus and gang-shouts; opener “Shadow Warriors” brings the cheese with its sword-wielding sound effects; “Hero” contains the most hymnal chorus in the band’s catalogue; and “Virus” really puts the pedal to the metal.
In truth, every track is worth your time if you’re a power metal fan. The slightly lackadaisical “A Million Lightyears” drops the vibrancy a bit, especially as the closer. It would have been better placed in the middle of the album, so the energy could lift again. However, the dud finale notwithstanding, Heart Of The Phoenix is a solid power metal album for the 21st century. Those craving originality shouldn’t be looking at a German Euro-power album with a phoenix on the cover anyway! Victorius: carry on being victorious.