Human Fortress – Thieves of the Night Review

Released by: AFM Records

Release Date: April 1, 2016

Genre: Power Metal

Links:

http://www.human-fortress.de/

http://www.facebook.com/humanfortressofficial

 

Line Up:

Gus Monsanto – Vocals

Todd Wolf – Guitar

Volker Trost – Guitar

Dirk Liehm – Keyboards

André Hort – Bass

Apostolos Zaios – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Amberstow

2. Last Prayer to the Lord

3. Rise or Fall

4. Thieves of the Night

5. Thrice Blessed

6. Hellrider

7. Just a Graze

8. Vicious Circle

9. Smite on the Anvil

10. Dungeons of Doom

11. Gift of Prophecy

12. Alone

 

After a near universally panned album and an extended gap between albums, involving numerous lineup changes, Human Fortress made a triumphant return in 2013 with Raided Land, an album that totally removed all the unwanted elements from its predecessor Eternal Empire and brought back traces of the band’s revered masterpiece Defenders of the Crown, while also modernizing their sound a bit to help it stand out, making it not only a return to form, but one of the band’s best works to date. Now, less than 2 and half years later, the band is back with their fifth release Thieves of the Night. I had very high expectations, as I’ve loved all the band’s prior releases, including Eternal Empire, and happily they have once again not disappointed me.

Thieves of the Night is their first album since Defenders of the Crown to not feature any lineup changes from the previous release, and is also by far the band’s quickest turn around since then, which is a sign that things have finally settled down and the band is happy to move forward. Unsurprisingly, then, where previous releases featured some major changes in their sound, this release feels like they took everything that worked on Raided Land built on that foundation, rather than doing anything radically different. Stylistically, this is very much the same brand of epic and instantly catchy power metal, featuring a mix of speedy and mid tempo tracks, though I find the faster tracks are more prominent and stand out a bit more this time around, with energetic performances all around, especially from singer Gus Monsanto, who feels like he has settled into his role and shows off his full range throughout the many songs, often times using more of his powerful, semi growly lower notes than before. The production is as perfectly polished as one would expect, and the songwriting is consistently strong as always for this band.

The album opens up strong with “Amberstow”, which begins with a nice keyboard intro and orchestra, before the full band kicks in and the tempo picks up, turning into a blazing opening track with an excellent chorus and awesome riffs. Perhaps my favorite song on the album is the title track, another super energetic speedy track which certainly feels similar to the “Gladiator of Rome” songs from previous albums, and is just as addictive and epic as those tracks. Monsanto in particular sounds incredible and very fiery on this track, especially during the intense final chorus. Other excellent faster tracks include “Rise or Fall”, which has some explosive guitar work throughout, especially in the middle, “Just a Graze”, which has an insanely catchy chorus and a strong use of symphonic elements, “Vicious Circle”, which is probably the fastest track on the album, and “Gift of Prophecy”, the longest track on the album, and also one of the best. It starts out slowly with some nice acoustic guitar work, before speeding up and turning into the kind of epic track the band excels at, with tons of memorable melodies throughout.

On the slower side of things, “Last Prayer to the Lord” is an amazing track featuring heavy guitar work during the verses and some excellent vocal melodies during the choruses, while “Thrice Blessed” is similarly quite heavy compared to the rest of the album and again allows the two guitarists to shine, plus it also features some symphonic elements to liven it up and make it another one of my favorites. The interlude track“Smite on the Anvil” nicely builds up to “Dungeons of the Doom”, a calmer song with a darker tone, where Monsanto once again sounds excellent. Speaking of which, the ballad “Alone” isn’t particularly great in terms of the composition, but it still works because the vocals are so good, though it and “Hellrider” are my two least favorites on the album. The latter is a solid track, but lacks the energy of the faster tracks and the heavy riffs of some of the other slower songs, though it does have a great chorus and is still a fun track.

With Raided Land, Human Fortress made an exciting and somewhat surprising comeback, and while Thieves of the Night doesn’t quite have the same impact as that release, it’s still an excellent album with consistently great songwriting and strong performances, and it feels like the band did a great job of building on what they started last time. Longtime fan of the band should obviously enjoy this, and fans of Euro power metal with epic choruses and just a slight edge to the guitars are recommended to give it a try as well.

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings: Travis   9/10

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