Among all the Black and Death Metal I’ve been spinning lately, and as much as I adore my music satanic and repulsive, you sometimes just need a bit of respite and something a touch more light-hearted to wrap your ears around. This is where Belgian crowd NIGHTQUEEN come into play with their brand of fantastic, frilly keyboard drenched Power Metal that contains more cheese than a Swiss fondue convention. The surprising thing is, “For Queen and Metal” is not even a style of Power Metal that I would consider myself my much a fan of; when I want Power Metal I tend to lean more towards stuff with a bit more grit and testosterone such as HIBRIA or STORMWARRIOR but I’ve really grown to like this album.
It’s an album that almost sounds as if it could easily have been recorded ten to 12 years ago when this style of Power Metal was arguably at its pinnacle; the outlandish neoclassical bombast of acts like RHAPSODY and DARK MOOR are the big comparisons that come to the fore when listening to “For Queen and Metal”, much due to the heavy presence of cascading keyboard work and Keely’s thickly accented vocals that really hammer down on the early DARK MOOR influences. So considering the band’s influences, you sort of know what you’re going to get lyrically; fluffy fantasy lore and magical themes abound. It’s sweet enough to make your teeth drop out. Who ever said that was such a bad thing though?
There’s always a lot going on throughout each song, the guitar work is superbly varied as are the keyboards which I must add are very well done. The huge backdrop of polychromatic and crystalline synth really plays on the fantasy themed sound the band are aiming for and this is none more evident than on tracks such as "Lady Fantasy" or "Secret of the Blind Man" for example, they actually add a nice deft medieval touch to proceedings. The guitar riffing harks back to the likes of early GAMMA RAY and HELLOWEEN among others while all throughout we’re treated to sweeping fret-melting neoclassical soloing that is much the hallmark of bands performing this style of music.
There’s no doubt that the first half of the album is certainly the stronger of “For Queen and Metal”, that’s not saying the latter half is weak, just not as flat out awesome. “Nightfall” and “Mystical Nights” would be my pick of the bunch along with the PRIEST-esque fist clencher “Screaming for Mercy”. The former two especially have some great choruses and vocal lines by Keely, and yes her accent may put some off but I find a certain charm in it, she has a real powerful presence which above all is what’s important, and when coupled with the driving double bass and riffing it prevents it from ever becoming too limp wristed.
The main drawbacks lie in the structure which remains pretty much the same throughout the whole release; thundering double bass, soaring vocals patterns and the exhaustive keys and soloing it does become a little one dimensional by the end. Closer “Dark Fairy” especially with its cringe worthy intro just never really goes anywhere and is simply unremarkable filler while “Nocturnal Thoughts” is a bit overwrought in its delivery as well at times but disregarding this “For Queen and Metal” is an extremely accomplished effort of the likes that many other Power Metal bands could only wish they could produce in a lifetime. It may not have quite the same staying power of similar acts like DARK MOOR or DREAM EVIL but if over the top showy Power Metal is your thing then by all means give this a try.
(Online April 21, 2012)