Within Silence - Return From The Shadows - (9/10)
Published on January 5, 2018
There is an inescapable linkage between power metal and the lighter side of life, even when dealing with those old school outfits that like to deal in darker lyrical themes and dabble in extreme musical elements here and there. The consonant melodies, and just the overall affinity with the common practices of Neo-classicism lends itself to a sense of triumph that is fertile ground for those telling tales of grand adventures in a number of different story genres. It should come as no surprise that a fair number of bands have taken to using the style as a medium for delving into the greatest story ever told, though lately the Christian power metal world that was heavily dominated by bands from Sweden (often connected to Christian Rivel’s record labels) has seen some competition coming out of Eastern Europe, namely Slovakia. Following a very similar formula to fellow power metal crusaders Signum Regis, Within Silence made an impressive splash in 2015 with their debut album Gallery Of Life, drawing fairly heavily from the Finnish sound typical to Stratovarius and older Sonata Arctica, but also with a somewhat more epic songwriting approach at times that reminisces upon the more ambitious work of Theocracy.
The passage of two years has found this Slovakian upstart taking their craft to the next level, as their sophomore effort Return From The Shadows sees a far more ambitious picture emerging. Things begin in fairly predictable territory with a handful of driving, up tempo rockers that focus upon generally predictable songwriting patterns, mirroring the pacing and structure of such fanfare as Stratovarius’ “Hunting High And Low” and “Eagleheart”. Particularly of note is “Heroes Must Return”, which features a keyboard and guitar-driven set of themes that definitely points to an old school Tolkki and Johansson collaboration, though vocalist Martin Klein has more of a husky, mid-ranged feel that is reminiscent of L.G. Persson (The Storyteller). While some of the other moderate length rockers such as “Children Of Light” and “You & I” tend to follow a similar feel to the aforementioned catchy anthem, the latter with maybe more of a happier Power Quest meets Freedom Call feel to it, this outfit isn’t averse to going heavier when called for. In true Theocracy fashion, the shorter length crusher “Calling From The Other Side” goes a bit heavier and throws a few thrashing riffs around to complement their keyboard-heavy and triumphant choruses.
As noted earlier, while their debut was a fairly innovative affair by melodic power standards, this album takes things in a much more ambitious direction. This becomes immediately apparent with the massive 16 minute plus epic “In The Darkness”, which shows this band’s progressive affinities and symphonic interests in one of the most epic ways imaginable. This song functions somewhere between the massively triumphant title song off Theocracy’s Mirror Of Souls and the triumphant majesty of Stratovarius’ “Anthem Of The World”. It’s less a song in the traditional sense and more of a musical journey that flirts with being its own modern symphony. Nipping on its heels is another highly involved epic that’s a little more than half its length in “Return From The Shadows”, a highly memorable and ambitious title song that sees the band reaching into the early days of Sonata Arctica in the melodic department, though the feel and riff work is highly reminiscent of the Iron Maiden-inspired galloping fun of the last album out of The Storyteller, save with a lot more keyboard presence and a slightly more showy lead guitar display.
The power metal sound has seen an astounding amount of development and evolutionary leaps over the past twenty years, and in many ways this album underscores much of this while being fairly rooted in traditional metal ideas. Though very much a European power metal affair, it is only occasionally that Within Silence draws directly from the Helloween speed metal well, as on the speed-infused celebration “The Final Victory”, which is a song that probably could have appears on an early Narnia or ReinXeed album and could definitely pass for early 2000s Freedom Call. For the most part, this is a band that keeps things at more of a slightly up tempo stride and relies far more on melody and a greater degree of heaviness in the guitars to achieve their power status, and they definitely pull it off something fierce here. Just about any person who enjoyed the latest Signum Regis and Theocracy outings will find a sure winner here, as will most who miss the early days of Sonata Arctica when said band actually played power metal and who are not wholly averse to seeing the gospel message worked into the lyrics. Lord willing, there will be a third LP on the horizon very soon.