Released by: Ulterium Records
Release Date: November 20, 2015
Genre: Melodic Metal
Mayo Petranin – Lead Vocals
Filip Kolus – Guitars
Ronnie König – Bass, Backing Vocals
Jan Tupy – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Jaro Jancula – Drums
Special guests: Maestro Mistheria and Roger Staffelbach
01. Lost And Found
02. The Secret Of The Sea
03. The Voice In The Wilderness
04. Prophet Of Doom
05. The Magi
06. Quitters Never Win
07. Tempter Of Evil
08. When Freedom Fails
09. The Kingdom Of Heaven
10. Bells Are Tolling
From the opening notes of Signum Regis’ newest album, “Chapter IV: The Reckoning”, I was immediately struck by the Christian imagery painted in their lyrics. It shouldn’t be a surprise, considering their last album, “Exodus”, was a concept album about the Israelites escape from their Egyptian enslavement.
So as a follower of Christ myself, when I come across a metal band with Christian leanings, I have to make sure that as a reviewer my spiritual kinship with the band doesn’t cloud my judgment into thinking they are a better group than they actually are.
As I anticipated the vocals, I was fearful that I would be assaulted by the high note histrionics similar to King Diamond or Michael Sweet that normally accompany this type of melodic metal. Thankfully, lead vocalist Mayo Petranin’s voice (who permanently joined Signum Regis in 2014) is a stable, masculine balance to the wild playing of guitarist Filip Kolus, bassist Ronnie Konig, keyboardist Jan Tupy, and drummer Jaro Jancula. His voice keeps the music firmly anchored to the ground while allowing it to soar majestically. It also helps it to mercifully sidestep the cheese that so often mars the sound of potentially good melodic metal bands.
The band seamlessly segues from the relentlessness of the opening track, “Lost and Found” and into the buttery groove that starts the second track, “The Secret of the Sea”, before they hit 90 mph into rocking riffs that crash in all directions and do not let up until the very last song.
On track 3, “Voice in the Wilderness”, Signum Regis continue their impressive technical onslaught with their blistering riffs and time signatures. However, they also begin to get a little ham-fisted with the lyrics. “Behold, the Lamb of God/Who takes away the sins of the world!” Petranin sings in the chorus. Despite the lyrics sincerity, there is no subtlety. Signum Regis could take a cue from other bands that sing about the love of God and spiritual issues in a positive way. It is more powerful when it’s woven into deeper intellectual fabric, such as when Impending Doom’s Brook Reeves snarls, “I am a murderer/wash me clean”. Here it feels a bit more like Sunday School. That’s not a slam against the band, just wishing for a little more meat on the songs lyrical bones.
“Kingdom of Heaven” pounds its rhythm at a militaristic cadence, giving the song a lean seriousness that isn’t as present on the rest of the album’s 10 tracks. Tupy’s cathedral organ playing in the back adds a subtle layer of menace as Kolus’ guitar squeals several notes in a style that would make Zakk Wylde a proud guitar daddy.
Still, the lyrics continue to remain on the nose with their positive message. If you are already one of the converted, you will enjoy it, but it may not resonate with some non-believers because of it’s preachiness. However, what Signum Regis lack in lyrical subtlety, they make up for with stunning technical mastery. They thankfully also manage to avoid the pitfall that many melodic metal bands make, such as Dream Theater, where a song seems to go on forever, when the band should just let the song die. By not making their songs lengthy, twelve-minute masturbations of sound, Signum Regis produce tunes that are lean, mean, and-most of all memorable. The longest track on here, clocking in at mere seven minutes, is the final one, titled “Bells are Tolling”. It starts with a somber and melodic piano and acoustic guitar duo, and is a surprising change of tone, especially coming right at the end of such dazzling technical chaos. Here on this track, the lyrics work much better than anywhere else on the album. They quote heavily from Ecclesiastes 3 (“A time for everything under the sun…a time kill…a time for peace”) with a deliberateness that makes the Biblical words more impactful than they have been previously. While the song does pick up its pace later with some masterful playing, it never loses sight of its strength in the “less is more” approach. “Bells…” comes to an end on a quiet note that resonates longer than many of the notes already played on the record.
Signum Regis have made what is probably their strongest album to date with “Chapter IV: The Reckoning”, displaying an assurance and control of their craft that will shame many bands into upping their game. If they can find a more poetic way of expressing their Christian faith in their lyrics, they could easily have the crown in the melodic metal world.
Written by: David Locklear
Ratings: David 7/10