Released By: Rock of Angels Records
Release Date: October 19th, 2018
Genre: Power Metal
Bernt Fjellestad – Vocals
Paul Olsen – Guitars
Jonkis Werdal – Bass
Jan Willy Aaraas – Drums
1. Tearing Up the World
2. Raise the Eagle
3. We Bring War
4. Burning of Rome
5. Kingdom Come
6. Valhalla Awaits
7. Brothers of the North
8. Light Won’t Shine
9. As I Burn
10. Drawn in Blood
11. Masters We Were
12. Empire (Live Bonus Track)
Over the years, I have discovered quite a few bands that failed to make much of an impression on me at first, only to come back to them somewhere down the road and suddenly find myself hooked on their music. One such example is Norwegian power metal band Guardians of Time. My first time hearing the band was with their 2011 release A Beautiful Atrocity, which initially did very little for me, and left me quite unimpressed. However, when the band released their next album, Rage, and Fire, in 2015, I decided to give them another shot, and this time around I found myself instantly wowed by their brand of hard-hitting, fast-paced power metal. It turns out, that one release I tried before had been a bit experimental, and even to this day, while I certainly enjoy it more than I did initially, it still remains my least favorite by the band. Now, three years after me becoming a fan, the band is set to release their fifth full-length release, Tearing Up the World, and this one is certainly more of an instant classic than any of their others I’ve heard, so far!
The band has changed their sound quite a bit over the years, but on their previous album they played a very aggressive, guitar-driven brand of power metal, similar to what one would expect from a German band, and this has continued with Tearing Up the World. In fact, this is definitely the fastest paced, most intense album I’ve heard by the band so far, with the majority of the tracks being very up-tempo while striking a perfect balance between frantic verses and very melodic, catchy choruses. There’s some slightly thrashy guitar work at points, as well as brief bursts of harsh vocals, most notably on “Valhalla Awaits”, but for the most part, this is about as pure a power metal album as you’ll ever hear. Performances are strong across the board, with the crunchy guitar work, in particular, being a highlight, with a mix of excellent riffs and grand solos, while the drums are also quite interesting and rather complex at times. Songwriting is excellent across the board, and while the songs are generally fast and straight-forward, there are a couple slower tracks to serve as a nice change of pace, as well as just enough surprises thrown in to keep the album feeling fresh and inspired the whole way through.
One element of the band I needed some time to get used to is vocalist Bernt Fjellestad. At the time I first heard the band, I was not really into rougher power metal vocals, which was obviously a problem, because that’s exactly what Bernt does. He has a rather deep voice and can get very animated at times, coming pretty close to screaming at the top of his lungs on occasion, while generally being quite fiery and powerful. He can deliver choruses nicely and does so frequently on this album, and he also does a good job of singing softly from time to time, but for the most part, he sticks to being very intense, and he isn’t afraid to throw in some epic falsettos, either.
I’ve found past Guardians of Time albums to be a bit slow starting, but it’s safe to say, that’s not the case with Tearing Up the World. The album gets off to a blistering start with the explosive title track, which opens up with some hard-hitting riffs that would feel right at home on a modern melodic death metal album, and indeed we get our first glimpse at some brief harsh vocals during the second verse. The song overall is fast, intense, and has an excellent chorus, as well as a fun solo section, and it certainly gets the album off to a strong start. The pace drops slightly on “Raise the Eagle”, a lighter, more melodic track, which introduces some light keyboards. It has a very classic power metal sound to it, alternating between mid-paced verses and a fast, very melodic chorus, and it has one of the most melodic and impressive solo sections on the album. Next is “We Bring War”, a hard-hitting song, which also had fairly slow verses, before speeding up for a frantic and intense chorus, which stands as one of the bands on the album.
The album only picks up further with “The Burning of Rome”, one of the fastest tracks on the album, slowing down briefly during the first verse, before picking up the pace and never looking back. It has probably the catchiest, the most epic chorus on the entire album, as well as one of the more relaxed performances from Bernt, which ends up paying off in a big way. Following that, “Kingdom Come” is even speedier and doesn’t slow down at all, with some excellent rhythm guitars and drums throughout, as well as a very frantic but melodic chorus. It’s short, but definitely one of the most addictive tracks on the album. The first curveball comes next, during “Valhalla Awaits”. The song itself is typical high energy power metal, as always, with some very fun, melodic verses, but it’s during the chorus where it takes a surprising turn. The guitar work stays very melodic throughout, but the vocals are performed by former Immortal vocalist Abbath, who uses his usual blackened growls. Honestly, I usually don’t mind harsh vocals in power metal, but I find the vocals really clash with the melodic chorus here, and if anything would fit better on the verses, or even on one of the heavier tracks on the album, such as the title track or “We Bring War”. To have placed them on such a melodic track feels like a bit of a mistake to me, and causes the song to be my least favorite, even though the rest of the track is still up to the excellent quality of the rest of the album.
After that slight disappointment, the band bounces back with yet another super fast track in “Brothers of the North”, this time offering up some very intense verses, before giving way to one of the most melodic and well-sung choruses on the album, making it an instant favorite. The last run through is especially inspiring, and overall it’s simply an addictive track. In case anyone thought the band was incapable of slowing things down, “Light Won’t Shine” comes in to offer a sledgehammer to the head of that theory. Indeed, it’s a slow but very hard-hitting crusher of a track, with some especially hard riffs during the verses, giving way to an excellent chorus. It’s both a nice change of pace and an excellent track on its own. Next is “As I Burn”, the other track on the album to feature guest vocals. It’s another speedy track, with slight thrash influences to the guitar work, which fits perfectly as the guest here is Tim “Ripper” Owens, using his typical falsetto vocals to great effect. There’s a nice guitar solo near the end, with some slight Maiden influences, and overall it’s another excellent track. The second and last slower song on the album is “Drawn in Blood”, a very folk-influenced song, with some folk melodies thrown into the guitar work. It’s the most relaxing track on the album, with some excellent melodies, as well as some more lighter vocals from Bernt, and while it’s fairly short-lived, it’s certainly a very fun, catchy track, and stands as my personal favorite, just because it’s such an effective change of pace, and because I love the folk melodies. Closing out the album is “Masters We Were”, another fast-paced track with an excellent chorus, and some excellent melodic guitar work, as well as probably the best solo section on the album. It closes out the album in great form and is another one of my personal favorites. As a bonus, the band has offered up a live performance of “Empire”, a track from Rage and Fire, and it’s a fine performance, with everything sounding near identical to the studio version.
I was hoping for Tearing Up the World to be a fun, hard-hitting power metal album, and it’s exactly that, except with a few nice surprises thrown in, as well as one slight misfire. Aside from that one chorus, though, the album is excellent the whole way through, giving listeners plenty of excellent fast and furious power metal moments, as well as a couple very effective slower tracks. It’s my favorite Guardians of Time album to date, and one that can easily be recommended, both to fans of the band as well as to anyone looking for some great guitar driven power metal, as it’s definitely one of the best released this year.
Written by: Travis Green