Nestled deep in the murky underground of 90s Power Metal revivalism is one of the most curious phenomena to ever bear the genre title. Not so much curious because of their originality, though there is actually some of that to be found given when the band came about, but because of how poorly they realized what little potential they had. The institution that is POWER SYMPHONY can be described as a grab-bag of Folk, Melodic, Operatic, Neo-classical, Doom, Speed, and Thrash Metal; but most of it centers on the quirky, grating, utterly forced vocals of Michela D’Orlando. For any person with any level of familiarity with this band and any love for the genre they claim, her exploits are a matter of infamy, often dismissed as a poorly conceived attempt at accomplishing what Elise Martin did with DARK MOOR, but more rightly so as the equivalent of a goat choking on barbed wire.
Nevertheless, there is a unique, albeit cult-like attraction to be found in this band’s debut “Evillot”. Being of the lower grade persuasion in its production, it’s an album that brings up imagery of the subterranean resistance to the tyranny of Alternative Rock, be it the frostbitten low-fidelity work of the Nordic Black Metal explosion, or the other various independent bands out there that didn’t make it during the Death Metal craze of the mid 90s. Such music stands on its merits, absent a stellar independent production job which was far less common then than now, and here we see a varied approach to derivative music that is not without some element of charm. But whereas this band’s more infamous follow up “Lightbringer” (which solidified their status as the laughing stock of Power Metal) was an exercise in one-dimensional redundancy and uninspired flatness musically, this album tries so desperately to be varied and individualistic that it has little actual identity to speak of.
The songs on here are quite long and loaded with contrasting ideas, to the point of resembling one of those strange rehashes of DREAM THEATER’S “Awake” that were common at the time, but communicated through an older Traditional Metal lens. When listening to “Battles In The Twilight” and “Shores Of My Land” the dominant image is an Amazonian take on MANOWAR’S mid 80s work, but relying a lot less on repetition and narrated sections and more on divergent riff sets. The cookie cutter approach to chorus emphasis that is common to RHAPSODY OF FIRE worshipers (a category that this band is sometimes put into, though it’s difficult to figure out why) is downplayed, though there are discernable chorus sections that are somewhat catchy, but often fleeting. The former is loaded with BLACK SABBATH influences in the riff department, the intro in particular reminding heavily of “Children Of The Grave”, and is arguably the best song this band has ever committed to recording, even when not accounting for D’Orlando’s overdramatic and awkward singing.
As the album further unfolds, things go a bit downhill before taking a really substantial nosedive at the end. As the Celtic influences give way for occult-oriented ones on the title song, so too does the half-hearted “Sign Of The Hammer” influences give way for a really poor attempt at emulating early 80s NWOBHM songwriting. The riff work meanders like crazy, sometimes conjuring up images of mid-80s SATAN or MERCYFUL FATE without the charm of either, and the attempt at darkened atmospherics gets utterly comical. The intro riff to “The Curse Of Every Man” literally gets within striking range of plagiarizing MEGADETH’S “Symphony Of Destruction”, while the rest of the song largely wanders aimlessly trying to sound like something completely different. In essence, that is the general drive of most of the songs on here. And after a rather pointless 3-part song that differs little format wise from the 4 previous songs, the band decides to churn up the cheesy 80s satanic nonsense to full intensity by recapping the folksy closing to “Battles In The Twilight” for about 2 minutes, then putting in almost 10 minutes of dead silence before putting in some really stupid sounding ambient noise with backwards speaking at the end. Newsflash Michela and company, you’re don’t believe in this stuff, you don’t pull it off well, and should have just cut this pointless joke from the entire listen and settled on a 5 song album that would have been mediocre at best.
To the prospective buyer that wants to spend his money why, avoid this album, and just flat out avoid this band. Outfits like STAR QUEEN and SINERGY, both of which tend to get far more hate than this band does, are better than this in spite of being even more derivative. How these hacks ever got signed to a label is utterly beyond comprehension, though the year that this was released did mark the heaviest saturation point of new bands calling themselves Power Metal. Truth be told, this isn’t a Power Metal album, even by the loose standards employed today that include a number of AOR influenced and industrial sounding bands. This is a horrid attempt at revisiting a time when Power, Speed, Thrash and Doom metal were all still joined at the hip under the broader title of Heavy Metal, it doesn’t come close to living up to the standards that it sets for itself, and has the distinct honor of being fronted by a vocalist who could potentially have done more damage to the image of metal than Fred Durst had this band gained similar mainstream attention. Yet ironically enough, speaking for myself, I occasionally make time to listen to this once in a while, for the same reason that I have taken to watching bad 80s Sci-Fi flicks like “Robot Holocaust” and “Breeders”, because something this bad can actually have a level of charm, particularly in that the person doing this was actually seriously trying and revealing their talentless nature in the most obvious way possible. Or maybe I’m just a weirdo who thinks about these things too much, take your pick.
(Online April 16, 2011)