I believe that I’m one of only like three or four people who actually enjoy the latest effort, "Eternal Empire", from German Power Metallers, HUMAN FORTRESS. Everywhere you turn, there are reviews making this album out to be everything from a huge disappoint, to a complete waste of plastic, to the most horrible abomination ever known to Metal. Most of these opinions hang on new vocalist Carsten Frank’s (ex-GALLOGLASS) use of growls, along with a handful of modern elements thrown in (just listen to “The Raven” for the best example).
Now, I’ll be quick to agree that “Eternal Empire” doesn’t hold a candle to “Defenders Of The Crown”, HUMAN FORTRESS’ masterwork, but it really doesn’t try to. In fact, for anyone who’s been paying attention, you should know that HUMAN FORTRESS has now reinvented itself to an extent with each release, while always keeping on with the common thread of Power Metal. With the debut, “Lord Of Earth And Heavens Heir”, the band played a more progressive-minded variant of the genre, while the previously mentioned follow-up (“Defenders…”) saw the band simplify their sound and increase the epic qualities. Now, on “Eternal Empire”, the band has toned down a bit of the epic-ness, and replaced it with the modern sounds mentioned earlier.
Regardless of what any other review says, don’t for a moment think that HUMAN FORTRESS has gone “core” on us. The grand and catchy melodies that made there last album so great are still here, although a bit subdued. But on songs such as “Contrast”, "The Wizard", “Circle Of Flames” and “Falling Leaves”, no doubt is left as to what band you’re listing to, as the structures and melodies are HUMAN FORTRESS through and through. Vocally, Frank used the aforementioned growls throughout the album, but his clean singing is in the majority. And it’s not as if he ever goes into a full on throaty or guttural vocal, but rather offers a more aggressive variant of his natural voice. Instrumentally, the guitar takes a modern – there’s that word again – turn in the tone department at times, but mostly it’s business as usual, with the guitars providing memorable melodies and solos. The rhythm department of HUMAN FORTRESS has never been what I would call flashy, and “Eternal Empire” is no different, with the drums and bass providing the album’s backbone, but not much else.
The songwriting on “Eternal Empire” is a bit hit or miss, especially compared to the previous album where every song was a hit, but all the songs on the album possess memorable hooks, making even the “filler” tracks come out after a few listens.
With a new – and obviously capable – vocalist on board, it’s no surprise that HUMAN FORTRESS would take a bit of a sound shift, as prior vocalist Jioti Parcharidis is unique and, frankly, irreplaceable. And with that in mind, it’s also no surprise that so many people are having a difficult time accepting the “new” HUMAN FORTRESS, as the old had a stellar and unique sound to call it’s own. However, the new is much more a continuation of the old, than the complete makeover that some would have you believe that it is. Would “Eternal Empire” sound better with Parcharidis behind the mic? Maybe, oh hell, probably. But does it sound just fine with Frank handling the vocals? You bet.
(Online September 11, 2008)