Released By: Rockshots Records
Release Date: November 22nd, 2019
Genre: Power Metal
Mikael Salo – Vocals
Esa Orjatsalo – Guitars
Mikko Salovaara – Guitars
Sami Hinka – Bass
Benji Connelly – Keyboards
Atte Martinen – Drums
1. The Conquerer
2. Legionnaires’ Oath
3. Naturalis Historia
6. Echoes in Eternity
8. Ides of March
9. Ascending of Jupiter
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship when it comes to Finnish power metal. Quite a few of my all-time favorite albums have been released by Finnish bands, and yet I find some of my favorite bands from that country have lost some of their charms lately, either from watering down their sound a bit too much or even switching genres in some cases. Either way, for anyone else thinking the Finnish power metal scene, isn’t quite what it used to be, Metal De Facto is here to fix things, looking to “make power metal great again”, as guitarist/founding member Esa Orjatsalo (ex-Dreamtale) boldly proclaims. Metal De Facto is a superband of sorts, featuring vocalist Mikael Salo (Everfrost), guitarist Mikko Salovaara (Leverag), bassist Sami Hinka (Ensiferum), keyboardist Benji Connelly (Everfrost), drummer Atte Martinen (ex-Kivimetsän Druidi), and of course Orjatsalo. Their debut Imperium Romanum is now upon us, and it is quite the treat, turning the clock back to a time when the scene was flourishing, with clear influences from the likes of Helloween and Iron Maiden, as well as injecting some of their own ideas, to create an album that’s equal parts fun and refreshing.
I’ll state this right off the bat: Anyone looking for anything particularly innovative or unique is not likely to find it here, as this is an album clearly rooted in classic power metal, with hints of heavy metal and some symphonic metal. It very much feels like it could have been released during the late 90’s/the early 2000s when the Finnish power metal scene was arguably at its best. Stylistically, much of the album consists of classic twin guitar power metal along the lines of Helloween, with just enough Stratovarius style keyboards to help make it stand out. There’s a ton of speedier tracks, all of which are very high energy, and contain a mix of hard and heavy riffs, as well as some excellent melodic guitar work, some nice keys, and strong choruses. Instrumentally, the album is mostly very upbeat, but it does get heavy at times, with the guitar work being quite impressive during the instrumental sections, and there are times where the band switches to more of a Maiden inspired heavy metal sound, both in the form of galloping riffs, and some more slower paced material, which also works out quite well.
While the musicianship is excellent all around, there are some points where the keyboards can be a bit distracting. On most tracks they sound great, and help add some extra flavor, as well as giving the music a slight symphonic at touch at times (along with the occasional choir vocals), but there are a couple of points where they get a little too cheesy, leaning a bit towards techno territory, which gets to be a bit much, especially when paired with some heavy guitar work, such as on the slower-paced “Inferno”. Luckily, this doesn’t happen often, and while the speedier tracks are the highlights, most slower tracks are also very enjoyable. Vocalist Mikael Salo has a strong, deep voice, and sings with a slight edge, which fits the music perfectly. He alternates nicely between occasionally being a bit animated and intense, while also being able to sing softly and smoothly at times. He has a classic heavy metal sound at times, which works out well, and adds extra energy to some already very energetic material. Production is very strong and powerful, and everything sounds excellent. Songwriting is also excellent across the board, and while there’s nothing overly inventive or complicated here, each song is great in its way, aside from the one slight misstep I mentioned earlier in this paragraph.
Imperium Romanum is a concept album, based around the Roman Empire, with each track focusing on different people and events related to the concept. The band already has some material and a theme ready for a second release, with their overall goal being to produce albums centered around historical themes surrounding different countries and cultures. While this album has an overarching theme, each track stands well on its own, and so it’s an album that works equally well whether you listen to the whole thing in one go, or listen to different tracks separately. Opening up the album is lead single “The Conqueror”, an instant winner of a track, which starts with some blistering lead guitar work, enhances by some nice keys in the background. It moves at a brisk pace, with heavy rhythm guitar work in the verses, and very powerful vocals, which give way to a huge, melodic and very catchy chorus, as well as a lengthy, very technically proficient solo section. It’s an excellent track from start to finish, and gets the album off to a flying start.
Next is “Legionnaires’ Oath”, a slower, heavier track with some punishing riffs, as well as a very classic heavy metal infused sound, overall. The verses are heavy and intense, while the chorus is very melodic, with some epic choir vocals, and it’s one of the most guitar-driven tracks on the album. Continuing with some excellent guitar work, “Naturalis Historia” is one of the fastest-paced tracks on the album, with an equal balance between intense rhythm guitars and some nice leading keyboards, as well as a very strong chorus, where Salo alternates wonderfully between smooth and more intense vocals. It has a very classic power metal feel to it, especially during the epic extending solo section, which has some wonderful keyboard work. The only real low point of the album is the aforementioned “Inferno”, another slower paced track, which has a very heavy, quite intense lead riff, an excellent guitar solo in the second half and nice, laid back verses, but the techno-infused keyboards get to be a bit irritating, especially during the otherwise fun and catchy chorus. I’m generally a fan of cheesy keyboards, but even I’ll admit this track goes just a bit far, with how upfront, loud and distracting they can get, and they sink an otherwise excellent track. Of course, anyone who can either look past or enjoy those keyboards should love the track, as everything else about it is excellent.
From worst to best we go, with the insanely epic “Bacchanalia”, where synth horns and thundering riffs lead the way through an upbeat, epic and gloriously cheesy power metal romp, with one of the single catchiest, most melodic and epic choruses I’ve heard on a power metal album this whole year, with the choir vocals being especially awesome! It’s a track that alternates wonderfully being heavy, cheesy and melodic, and everything is executed to perfection, with the verses, chorus and solo section all being equally amazing. Following that incredible track, we get the lone ballad “Echoes in Eternity”, a nice track, consisting mostly of some soft acoustic guitars, occasional keyboards, drums and some excellent, very soft vocals from Salo, who gives a powerful, emotional performance, especially during the great chorus (though his high pitched screams towards the end are a tad irritating, but certainly don’t ruin his performance, overall.) The intensity picks up again with, “Colosseum”, an epic speedy instrumental, with some slight neoclassical flourishes, with some wonderful keyboard/guitar duels going on throughout the track. It’s a wonderful instrumental, and one of my favorite tracks on the album, doing a nice job of showcasing some excellent musicianship, while still having some amazing melodies, and it never turns into technical showmanship just for the sake of it, which is always a concern with instrumentals. Instead, it’s just a wonderful track from start to finish.
Moving to the last three tracks, “Ides of March” keeps the energy going, with more nice, heavy guitar work. It moves along at a middling pace, while still having a ton of energy, with fun verses, and a nice, softer chorus, with strong vocals, before speeding up for some great instrumental work in the second half. The second single for the album is “Ascending of Jupiter” another fun, a very speedy track with some awesome, Maiden infused galloping riffs, as well as some slight symphonic elements, and some great choral vocals. It’s perhaps the fastest-paced track on the album, with some wonderful riffs and melodies, and an excellent extended instrumental section. Closing out the album is the 9-minute epic “Germanicus”, which alternates nicely between intense, speedy verses with some wonderful guitar work, a soft, melodic chorus, and an extended instrumental section in the middle, which shifts gears quite a bit. There’s a lot going on, but everything is executed wonderfully, and it’s a very epic track, which stays exciting throughout its whole duration, and closes the album out in style.
If Metal De Facto is looking to “make power metal great again”, I’d say they’re certainly on the right track, as Imperium Romanum is a very fun album, which certainly brings back memories of many genre classics, both from Finland and other countries, while also having some slight modern touches, as well as hints of classic heavy metal. Fans of the genre who feel some of the newer bands aren’t quite cutting it, or some of their old favorites just don’t have it anymore, are highly recommended to give this album a listen, as it very much feels like it would have fit in perfectly with many of the great late 90’s/early 2000’s power metal albums. With a second album already in the works, it’s clear Metal De Facto is only just beginning, and I very much look forward to seeing what they do next, as this debut is certainly a great way to start their career!
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.