Release Date: December 6th, 2019
Genre: Power Metal
Gus Monsanto – Vocals
Torsten Wolf – Guitars
Volker Trost – Guitars
André Hort – Bass
Dirk Liehm – Keyboards
Apostolos Zaios – Drums
3. Reign of Gold
4. Lucifer’s Waltz
5. Bullet of Betrayal
6. Shining Light
8. The Blacksmith
9. Martial Valor
10. Legion of the Damned
For the first time in a while, it seems safe to say German power metal band Human Fortress have fully settled down, and stabilized their lineup. To say the band had some struggles following their acclaimed second album, Defenders of the Crown, would be a massive understatement, as that led to a massive lineup change, followed by the widely reviled Eternal Empire. Following that, the band was on hiatus for a while, before returning with the excellent comeback album, Raided Empire, with a largely changed lineup. They then released Thieves of the Night three years later, which followed suit, and now three more years later, the band is set to release their sixth full-length album, Reign of Gold, which marks the first time the band has ever gone three straight albums with the same lineup. With all that said, I was expecting great things from the album, and for the most part, it delivers.
Fans of past albums from the band should have a good idea of what to expect, as Reign of Gold very much falls in line with the previous two releases, especially, while at times showing traces of some of the more experimental work on their first two albums. Musically, this is at times some very hard-hitting power metal, while at other times being remarkably restrained, with the tempos varying greatly from track to track. Songwriting is great, for the most part, with a few tracks being especially amazing, while a couple of others fall a bit short. For the most part, it’s largely a guitar-driven album, with duo guitarists Torsten Wolf and Volker Trost providing some excellent riffs, solos, and melodic guitar work, while Dirk Liehm’s keys are largely in the background, setting the mood and adding to the atmosphere for most tracks. Performances are strong across the board, with Gus Monsanto sounding as powerful, yet smooth as always, and while a couple of tracks have some weak choruses, he still does the best he can with them, and shines through on many other tracks, sounding suitably intense at points, while also using his awesome, soaring power metal vocals at other points. My one complaint about the overall sound is that the production seems a bit weaker and less polished compared to what I’m used to hearing from the band. It doesn’t sound bad, but guitars don’t quite have the same crunch as normal, and drums are barely audible, at times.
The most important part of any album is, of course, the songwriting, and for the most part, Reign of Gold delivers in that area. Following a nice, brief intro track, “Thunder” kicks things off in fine form, with an epic tease at the chorus, followed by a fairly mid-paced opening verse, with nice drum beats and powerful vocals. The song moves along at a nice pace and has one of the strongest choruses on the album, as well as some of Monsanto’s most powerful vocals, and it sets the bar very high for the rest of the album, while the melodic guitar solo in the second half is brief but quite nice. Next is the title track, which moves at a faster pace during the verses, with more intense drumming, nice rhythm guitar work and some nice keys leading the way. The chorus is when things pick up, though, as what sounds like a second vocalist takes the lead, with some very wild and intense vocals, to go along with some outstanding lyrics and vocal melodies, which help make it easily the best chorus on the entire album. The solo in the middle is very melodic, somewhat classic heavy metal style, and is much more extended than the one on the opening track. Overall, it’s one of the best tracks on the album.
Next is one of the more experiment tracks, “Lucifer’s Waltz”, a darker, slower-paced and more atmospheric track. Aside from a heavy main riff, this track is quite restrained, instead opting for a more laid back, atmospheric approach, with a strong focus on keys and symphonic elements to set the tone. The verses are nice, with a foreboding feel to them, but the choruses fall quite flat and just don’t have to do anything to grab attention, as one would expect. Overall, it’s not one of my favorites, but it’s an interesting track, for sure, and I can see some people loving it. Next is “Bullet of Betrayal”, another slower paced track, though this one has a more upbeat feel to it, with some rather uplifting folk melodies. Verses are slow but fun, and the instrumental work is great throughout, but again, the chorus falls a bit flat, as the vocal melodies just aren’t very strong, and it’s the one time on the whole album where Monsanto sounds a bit forced. He more than makes up for that on “Shining Light”, though, a beautiful piano ballad with nice use of symphonic elements. The verses are fairly calm and do a great job of setting the tone, while the chorus is also fairly restrained the first time through, but becomes more epic later on, and Monsanto’s performance is equal parts emotional, powerful and just phenomenal all around, while the lyrics and melodies are also fantastic, so it just ends up being an amazing ballad, overall.
Pushing towards the end, another personal favorite is “Surrender”, the heaviest track on the album. It starts with some slow, brutal verses with crushing riffs and intense vocals, before speeding up for an all-out power metal assault during the chorus, with some of Monsanto’s most intense and powerful vocals I’ve ever heard, and the instrumental section in the second half is extremely epic. Next is “The Blacksmith”, which is a bit of a frustrating track. The verses have a slight hard rock edge to them, and the track alternates nicely between speedy and mid-paced passages, while the vocal melodies are strong throughout. However, I find many albums I’ve reviewed lately have had that one track or two where the keyboards bother me, and that’s the case for this track, as the keyboards during the chorus are very distracting, sound awful when mixed in with everything else, and just completely ruin an otherwise great track.
Thankfully, it’s all uphill from there, with all three remaining tracks being fantastic. First up is “Martial Valor”, a slightly folk-influenced heavy metal track, with some pretty heavy riffs during the verses. The track moves along at a slow pace and has some rather intense verses, to go along with an excellent, very melodic chorus, with some fantastic vocal melodies, and it’s one of the catchiest songs on the album, while the folk melodies throughout are quite wonderful. The first single for the album is “Legion of the Damned”, a speedy, hard-hitting symphonic power metal track, which moves along at a frantic pace throughout, with Monsanto showing both his soaring vocals and some more intense, near screaming vocals in equal measure, with everything sounding great, especially during the outstanding chorus. Closing out the album is “Victory”, a mid-paced track with a slight folk feel to it, especially during the chorus. There’s some wonderful melodies throughout the track, as well as some nice riffs, and the chorus is particularly awesome, and one of the catchiest on the album. It’s an excellent track, overall, and a great way to end the album.
Human Fortress has been going strong for these past six years, with their previous two albums being some of their best work ever, and while Reign of Gold hits a couple of speed bumps along the way, it largely follows suit, with an excellent mix of power metal, heavy metal and some symphonic and folk elements sprinkled throughout. Longtime fans of the band should be pleased, while anyone else looking for some great, slightly hard-edged power metal, with a diverse collection of tracks, is also highly recommended to give this a listen. With their lineup seemingly stabilized, at this point, one can only hope the band keeps delivering more and greater albums in the future.
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.