Released By: AFM Records
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Ida Haukland – Vocals, Bass
Marius Silver Bergesen – Guitars
T.O. Byberg – Guitars
Ørjan Aare Jørgensen – Drums
1. My Fortress
2. Steal Away the Light
3. The Sentinel
6. The Heart’s Dominion
7. As I Call
9. The Sphere
12. Virgin Ground
A few years ago when I was still relatively new to prog and power metal bands, one of the first lesser known bands I discovered was Norway’s Triosphere. I was instantly impressed by the raw power and intensity of their debut Onwards, as well as Ida Hauklands’s very powerful vocals. Their sophomore effort The Road Less Travelled impressed me even more. It was a much more polished and mature sounding album, also much more progressive, while still having the excellent guitar riffs and vocals of their debut. Now, ten years after their formation, and over four and a half years since their previous release, they have unleashed their third album, The Heart of the Matter. With this album, their sound has only matured even further, and their songwriting continues to improve, which has resulted in possibly their best album yet.
Triosphere has always combined elements of power metal and prog in a seamless matter, but on The Heart of the Matter they have taken this even further, creating some of their most dynamic and complex songs to date. At times the music is very aggressive, with some tracks containing some rather thrashy riffs, while at other times it’s surprisingly mellow and laid back, with a very rich guitar tone and some truly fantastic melodies all around. Their prog side is definitely more dominant on this album, with most songs going through multiple changes in tempo and tone, and there are many times where the music very calmly builds up, mixing in some surprisingly soft sections to ease you in, only to suddenly speed up and pummel the listener with some heavy riffs. At the same time, while the album can be very complex and even quite subtle compared to many prog/power albums, it’s still a fairly accessible album, in large part due to the excellent vocal melodies, and extremely catchy choruses, which dominate almost every song. In short, the album manages to both be both complicated and extremely catchy at the same time, which is quite the feat.
As mentioned above, the vocal melodies are simply fantastic, so much so that you’d only need a mediocre singer capable enough of staying in tune to make them work. Well, Ida Haukland is certainly not a mediocre singer. She has a very strong and powerful voice, often staying within an alto range, which helps her standout from the typical female power metal vocalist. In the past I’ve found her to be best at the heavier songs, where her raspy voice could fully take over, but on this album she sings a lot softer on some songs, particularly during the calmer, more melodic sections, and she sounds just as good during these parts as she does during the more aggressive parts. I’m particularly impressed by her on the closing ballad “Virgin Ground”, where her she sings with a very warm tone that fits the song beautifully.
This album features two kinds of songs: The ones that instantly hook you in and blow you away right from the start, and the more complicated ones that may take a while, or sometimes even require multiple listens to fully grasp, before proving to be just as impressive as those in the first category. Starting with the former group, we have the opening track “My Fortress”, which starts out with a calm acoustic intro, somewhat reminding me of earlier Metallica intros, before launching into an ultra thrashy riff that reminds me of the American band even more, particularly during their glory days in the 80’s. After hooking you in with that riff and an impressive opening verse, they slow things down with a very nice chorus, before eventually speeding up again during an impressive solo section. The lead single “The Heart’s Dominion” is perhaps even more instantly satisfying, opening with an epic semi-symphonic section with some epic choir vocals, before turning into one of the hardest hitting songs on the album, complete with a ridiculously good chorus, and an even more impressive instrumental section. The next two songs continue in the same vein, with “As I Call” being a more melodic but still fast paced and catchy track, while “Relentless” is the speediest, most power metal driven song on the album.
In the latter category, we begin with the two mid-tempo crushers, “Steal Away the Light” and “The Sentinel”. These are two fairly similar tracks, which both start off with slow and heavy riffs, before giving way to Ida’s excellent vocals, especially during the choruses. Things get more subtle with “Breathless” and “Departure”, which are both rather slow and calm during the verses, using some very atmospheric sounding guitars and lighter vocals from Ida, only becoming heavier in very quick bursts. There’s a very melancholic feel to both songs, and at first I wasn’t overly impressed, but on future listens I was amazed by the arrangements and darker, yet still calm tone of the guitars, which are only outdone by the choruses in both songs. Another impressive track is “Storyteller”, which does a whole lot within a short amount of time. It starts off with a thrashy riff, before exploring similar territory as “Breathless” and “Departure”, except that it speeds up midway through and becomes the most dynamic song on the album. Even the closing ballad “Virgin Ground” is amazing, in equal parts due to Ida’s vocals, and some very haunting guitar melodies.
Triosphere sure is a band that likes to take their time releasing albums, but with The Heart of the Matter, the wait was certainly worth it, as every song is developed to its full potential, and everything sounds excellent. It maintains the more polished and mature sound of The Road Less Travelled, while at times bringing back the rawer, more aggressive sound of Onwards. It’s their most dynamic and most progressive album to date, while also possibly being their most accessible due to their ever improving vocals and melodies. A must hear for any fans of progressive power metal.
Written by Travis