Released By: Inner Wound Recordings
Release Date: October 13th, 2017
Genre: Power Metal
Ashley Edison – Vocals
Andy Kopczyk – Guitars
Glyn Williams – Guitars
Paul Finnie – Bass
Steve Williams – Keyboards
Rich Smith – Drums
1. Lords of Tomorrow
3. Kings and Glory
4. Face the Raven
5. No More Heroes
6. Revolution Fighters
7. Pray for the Day
8. Coming Home
9. The Sixth Dimension
There have been quite a few comeback releases from well-established bands recently, and perhaps my most anticipated of all, Sixth Dimension, the sixth full-length release from the UK power metal band Power Quest, is set to be released in mid-October. I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time, with their previous release Blood Alliance, in particular, being one of my top power metal albums of this decade, so I was excited for anything the band would do in the future, which made it very disappointing when shortly after the release of that album, keyboardist and bandleader Steve Williams announced the band was done, because he didn’t think he could afford to continue with it anymore from a financial standpoint. Happily, six years later, through the help of crowdfunding, the band has been able to make a full comeback, first with the EP Face the Raven in 2016, and now with Sixth Dimension itself in 2017, set to be released by Inner Wound Recordings. I had high hopes for the album, and it certainly delivers!
In their early days, Power Quest played a very energetic brand of super speedy power metal, in the same style as DragonForce. In fact, Steve Williams actually formed the band after leaving DragonHeart, the original form of DragonForce, and guitarist Sam Totman was actually on the band’s first two albums, Wings of Forever and Neverworld. The one key element that has always set the band apart has been Steve’s very retro sounding keyboards, which have always dominated the band’s music and this was especially noticeable on an album like Magic Never Dies, a career highlight, which maintained some of the speed of their first two albums, while also showing the band moving to a lighter sound. This continued on Master of Illusion, the band’s least popular album to date, which dropped a lot of the speed and was a very light album overall, though I personally still enjoyed it a fair bit. After that, Steve fired all his bandmates and brought in an entirely new lineup for Blood Alliance, which brought back some of the speed, while also showing the band incorporating elements of classic Hard Rock and AOR, making for a varied but extremely melodic album which stands to date as my personal favorite by the band.
Which brings us to Sixth Dimension, with Steve again making some changes, this time keeping bassist Paul Finnie and drummer Rich Smith, while bringing in new guitarists Andy Kopczyk and Glyn Williams, as well as new vocalist Ashley Edison. The band made references to Neverworld while promoting the album, even calling their crowdfunding campaign Guardians of Neverworld, a line which appears on the track “Kings and Glory”, so it’s no surprise that a few of the tracks here have a very classic feel to them, complete with the speed and energy fans would expect from the band. At the same time, the more mellow hard rock and AOR elements from more recent elements are still very much in place here, with some of the tracks being very slowed down and more laid back, so there’s a nice variety of the songs here, and from a songwriting perspective, every song here is excellent, very melodic and very catchy, with a couple tracks having some harder hitting riffs than usual. Musically, there’s a bit more guitar presence than normal on this album, which makes sense because Steve apparently wrote the songs using a guitar this time around, but his keys are still very prominent on most tracks and still have a very 80’s sound to them, as always, which helps give all the songs that distinct Power Quest feel.
The one change I was most nervous about was in the vocals department, as I wasn’t too excited by Ashley Edison when I first heard him on the title track of Face the Raven, which also appears on this album along with “Coming Home”, but overall I think he does a pretty solid job. He has a deep and gritty voice, which helps give the music a bit of an extra edge., and he has a smooth delivery that works well on most tracks, with his mid-range vocals generally being excellent, but I find sometimes when he stretches for high notes his voice becomes a bit grating, and take away from the music. He does a nice job throughout the album, though, and those high notes only really bother me on “Face the Raven” and “Revolution Fighters”.
The album gets off to an excellent start with “Lords of Tomorrow”, which has a quiet intro before those retro sounding keys kick in and the track quickly speeds up, turning into a classic Power Quest track, complete with a great solo section and an extremely fun and catchy chorus, making it the perfect way to open the album. Ashley does hit some higher notes on the chorus, but he sounds pretty good overall on this track and doesn’t bother me at all. Next is “Starlight”, a slightly slower though still relatively up-tempo track, which has some great riffs, epic vocal melodies, and another fantastic chorus, where Ashley stays in the midrange and really excels, getting the most out of the melodies. The guitar and keyboard solos are also amazing, and it’s another excellent track overall. After that is another very classic sounding track, “Kings and Glory”, which opens up with some characteristically cheesy but awesome sounding keys, before quickly going rapid fire and turning into the speediest track on the album, and also one which certainly brings the band’s early albums to mind. Again, the chorus is super catchy and excellent, the musicianship is great throughout, complete with a nice solo section, and the vocals are excellent throughout, making it another clear highlight.
The first oddball of the album is actually the aforementioned “Face the Raven”, which, aside from the keyboards, has a very different feel to it, with much heavier guitars the usual, and it’s a harder hitting, more mid-paced track, which really takes advantage of Ashley’s grittier vocals during the verses. The chorus is good, but not one of the band’s better efforts, and I find Ashley’s high notes really irritating on this track. The solos are excellent as always, though, and musically it is a great track if a bit different sounding for Power Quest. Next is “No More Heroes”, a lighter, more mid-paced track, where the keys once again dominate, and Ashley delivers a very smooth vocal performance. In fact, I’d say he gives his best performance of the album on this track, especially during the incredible chorus, which is one of the best on the album, and of course, the solo section is absolutely fantastic once again. My least favorite of the album is next, that being “Revolution Fighters”. It begins with a nice acoustic guitar section, then after a while there’s a nice guitar riff, and then the track settles into a mid-paced, hard rock influenced sound with some nice guitar work throughout and the chorus would be amazing, except I find Ashley’s high note’s extremely grating, more so than on “Face the Raven”, and his vocals here completely kill the track for me. It’s a nice track musically, but sadly I care too much about vocals to not be annoyed by how Ashley sounds here. Unsurprisingly, the band returns to a softer sound for the next track, “Pray for the Day”, the most AOR influenced track on the album, and definitely a softer, slow paced and very 80’s sounding track, with some excellent keys and a great performance from Ashley, where he stays in his mid-range and really carries the melodies well, especially during the fantastic chorus.
The best track of all is next, that being the absolutely glorious “Coming Home”, which has some of the best sounding keys on the album, and is another very fast paced, classic sounding track, which effectively mixes in some slower sections during the verses, before speeding up and becoming more epic for the incredibly catchy chorus, which stands as not only the best chorus on the album, but one of the band’s absolute best to date, and thankfully Ashley delivers it perfectly. As always, the solo section is amazing, and overall it’s simply an addictive, super epic track which stands alongside some of the band’s all-time best songs. Lastly, we have the title track, another more calmer, more mid-paced track where Steve’s keys sound a bit less retro than normal, and overall it’s a very melodic track with an excellent chorus and some great vocal melodies. There’s an excellent solo section towards the end and then former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon makes a brief but very memorable appearance, leading to some great keyboard work and then one last run through the chorus before the album ends. It’s an excellent song overall, and definitely a great way to end the album.
Overall, Sixth Dimension is an excellent comeback album for Power Quest, and it was certainly worth the wait for longtime fans! It delivers a little something for everyone, giving fans of the band’s early speedy power metal a few new songs to be excited about, while fans of the more hard rock and AOR influenced tracks on later albums also have a lot to look forward to. There isn’t much new to be found here, but the album really is everything fans could hope for from a comeback album, and aside from a couple sections where the vocals bother me a bit, I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and I definitely hope the band can continue on for many years to come.
Reviewer: Travis Green