Released By: Scarlet Records
Release Date: April 21st, 2017
Genre: Power Metal
Mattias L. – Vocals, Piano
Esa Ahonen – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Markus Grundström – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Roland Westbom – Bass, Backing Vocals
Micke Dahlkvist – Drums
1. The Beginning of a New Era
2. Man of a Thousand Faces
3. All the Kingsmen
4. Prepare for War
5. Heroes of the Day
6. Mighty Eagle
7. Into the Glory Battle
8. The Speech
9. Mean Streak
10. Flying Over the Snowy Fields
11. Can’t Stop the Heat
12. The War is Useless
13. Heavy Burden
Less than four months into 2017, we already have a very strong contender for the comeback of the year! Swedish power metal band Cryonic Temple has been through some troubling times recently, after showing a ton of promise early in their career. Their first three albums were all great examples of epic power metal done right, with their 2005 release In Thy Power, in particular, showing how much potential the band had in their early days. Unfortunately, vocalist Glen Metal left the band in 2008 and was replaced by Magnus Thurin, which led to the band trying out a more aggressive, thrashy power metal sound on their fourth release, Immortal, that didn’t work well at all, and Magnus in particular stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ll be honest: I almost never dislike power metal albums, but Immortal is a rare example of such an album I really can’t stand to listen to the whole way through, due to both the vocals and lackluster songwriting. Suffice to say, I had no expectations for the band going forward, and so I’m both shocked and happy to report that roughly eight and a half years after their downfall, the band has not only returned with their fifth release, Into the Glorious Battle, but they have produced possibly their best album to date!
It’s clear the band needed some time to regroup and plan out exactly what they wanted to do after their fourth release bombed so hard, as Into the Glorious Battle feels like a different band entirely when compared against any of their previous releases. Obviously, fans of the first three albums may be disappointed, but I think it’s clear the band felt they had gone as far as they could with their old sound, which led to them experimenting and failing big time on Immortal, and so, by comparison, this album feels like they decided to rein it in a bit and go for a much more relaxed, melodic power metal sound. There’s certainly still some moments where the music gets pretty epic and there are some really impressive vocal melodies, but on the whole, this album is definitely more restrained and feels like a more traditional power metal album compared to their previous work. The guitar work is very strong throughout, though there aren’t too many heavy riffs, as the guitars are mostly used for melodic leads and solos, which are pretty much fantastic all around. This is some of the most melodic guitar work I’ve heard on a metal album in quite some time, and it’s certainly a refreshing change of pace after how rough Immortal sounded. Keyboards are also used very effectively, mostly in the background serving as atmosphere, though they do come to the front of the sound at times and sound very nice. There’s a good variety of the tracks here, with the expected up-tempo power metal tracks, as well as some more mid-paced tracks and a few ballads, and everything works out great, with all but one track fitting in perfectly, which makes sense as this is the band’s first concept album, focusing on a futuristic setting.
Obviously, the one element that had me the most nervous was the vocals. Glen Metal was a huge reason for why the band’s first three albums were so good, while Magnus Thurin was one of the main reasons why their previous album was such a failure, instantly making me wish Glen Metal was back, and so I was a bit scared the same thing could happen with new singer Mattias L. Thankfully, that is not the case. Compared to both his predecessors, Mattias has a much more relaxed vocal approach, mostly staying in mid to low range, and while he can add a lot of power when he needs to, he has a much smoother delivery than either of his predecessors, and he’s actually a big reason why this new sound works out so well. He especially excels on the calmer tracks, with his performance on the ballads being especially impressive, though he does sound excellent on the speedier tracks as well. I actually think he’s my favorite Cryonic Temple vocalist to date, though that’s more a matter of taste. In any case, he’s certainly the perfect singer for this new version of the band.
After a solid intro track, opener “Man of a Thousand Faces” kicks in and is an absolute killer track. The song has a brief orchestral intro before the excellent guitar leads kick in and the track speeds up and turns into one of the heavier, more intense tracks on the album, with great riffs during the verses, and then when chorus comes Mattias gets to show off his great voice, especially when the incredible full version of the chorus comes about 2 minutes into the song, immediately casting away any doubts that the band still has the ability to write great songs.
Next is “All the Kingsmen”, which starts off with a nice acoustic melody before the riffs take over and it turns into one of the heavier tracks on the album. It starts off mid-paced for a bit, but when the chorus kicks in it speed up and turn into a more traditional power metal track, and one that should definitely please fans of the genre. Other speedy tracks include “Mighty Eagle”, a brief but amazing track with one of the best choruses on the album, the title track, “Flying Over the Snowy Fields”, which is probably the fastest and most classic power metal sounding track on the album, “Can’t Stop the Heat” and “Heavy Burden”, which starts off as a slow, calm track before speeding up after a bit and turning into another stand out. All these tracks are excellent, with an emphasis on the great guitar work and vocals. One more somewhat speedy track that feels a bit different to me is “Mean Streak”. This is the one track of the album where melodic guitars aren’t really present, as it instead has a more classic heavy metal feel to the riffs and the chorus seems very simplistic compared to the rest of the album It’s a fun and solid track, but it feels very different. I immediately thought it was a cover track, that’s how out of place it feels, but I haven’t found anything to confirm that. Either way, it’s the one track on the album that doesn’t quite fit for me.
On the softer side, the album has three ballads in “Heroes of the Day”, “The War is Useless” and “Freedom”. Even on these tracks, there’s some great melodic guitar work, with each of them having some great solos, especially the latter as it’s a near 8-minute epic that closes the album. All three are excellent tracks and have some great vocal work from Mattias, but “The War is Useless” especially stands out for me, as it’s more of a piano led track, with some symphonic elements as well, including a lengthy orchestral section in the middle that is very nice, and it also has my favorite chorus of the three ballads. My favorite chorus on the whole album, though, is on “Prepare for War”, a mid-paced melodic metal track that speeds up a bit in an epic section towards the end. I mentioned that this album has some of the most melodic guitar work I’ve heard in quite some time, and that statement is especially true for this track, as the guitar work is just incredibly beautiful and melodic, with some of the best leads I’ve heard on a power metal track in a very long time. Easily my favorite song on the album, and probably my favorite Cryonic Temple song ever.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but needless to say Into the Glorious Battle has proven to be not only an amazing comeback from a band I once thought might be gone for good but also feels like it could be the start of a new era for Cryonic Temple. I sure hope so, as it’s a nice change into a new, more melodic sound that works great for the band, and it has some of the best guitar leads I’ve heard on a power metal album in recent memory, as well as some great vocals. Highly recommended for fans of the band who thought they were done, and for any power metal fans, especially those who prefer the lighter, more melodic side of the genre.
Reviewer: Travis Green