It’s been a while since I had last heard from one of my favourite dessert sauces gone musical: CUSTARD. The German Power Metallers are back with “Forces Remain”, their fourth album, and my first contact since “For My King” in 2000 (yes, their 2005 effort “Wheels Of Time” didn’t make it into my CD player) and several things have changed, most prominently the vocalist, which in many cases leaves a quite big mark on a release, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But overall drummer Chris Klapper is the only remaining member compared to their last album, with bassist Michael “Magga” Marquardt returning to the fold.
In the case of the Westphalians it was a certain step away from the squarely German Power Metal, as Olli Strasser’s voice bears more of a resemblance to the American vocalists of the style than the typically Germans, which gives the often speedy Power Metal of the Germans a nice touch, as musically things have not changed that much. Opener “The Dragonslayer” has an extremely clichéd title and lyrics, but packs a very nice punch and has good power and good melodies (not nursery rhyme like, btw), making it a very enjoyable kick-off to this album, while obviously anybody, who can’t stand this style will wholeheartedly hate it as well, so the guys are doing something right for sure! Only the siren-like calls for the slayer of dragons seem somewhat out of place, as they are too thin and almost squeaky. And they do not just stubbornly rush through the Power Metal spectrum, but also spice things up with some traditional German and British Heavy Metal to keep things interesting, so the dessert sauce or general (whichever one they named themselves after) has some variety to offer as well.
CUSTARD will not revolutionize the genre by any means, so they will stay within their chosen genre with their variety, but hey, double-bass cracker here, stomper there, ballad over yonder, works for me, if you take the Germans as what they are: purveyors of classic Metal and having been founded in 1987 they have the necessary authenticity as well. One of CUSTARD’s biggest assets is their talent to write mature melodies that stay away from the ultra catchy nursery rhyme like melodies, while maintaining immediate catchiness, just on a different level. Enter stage “Creature”, with its irresistible chorus that shows that you do not have to put the pedal to the metal at all times to qualify for the upper echelons of Power Metal. “Poke The Flames” breathes the air of old ACCEPT hymns, “Angel Of Sorrow” is more German Power Metal, straight, melodic, good, while “For The Cross” combines the double-pass power with a slower chorus and an overall epic feel.
The naysayers will say that CUSTARD don’t really bring anything new to the table, but I maintain my already often voiced standpoint, I rather have a band not sound original, but deliver thoroughly enjoyable fare instead of stuff that gives me indigestion instead and “Forces Remain” definitely is a very tasty piece of German craftsmanship that fans of Power Metal should definitely check out!
(Online February 1, 2009)