Excalion – Once Upon a Time Review

Compared to most power metal bands, Excalion's style is fairly subdued at times, relying heavily on vocal melodies and overall atmosphere, instead of being overly heavy, fast-paced, or epic....

Released By: Scarlet Records

Release Date: March 24th, 2023

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/ExcalionBand/

 

Line Up:

Marcus Lång – Vocals
Aleksi Hirvonen – Guitars
Onni “Hot Nutz” Hirvonen – Bass
Jarmo “Jappe” Myllyvirta – Keyboards
Henri Pirkkalainen – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Keitele

2. Resolution

3. Soulbound

4. Words Cannot Heal

5. Amuse Me

6. Once Upon A Time

7. I Am I

8. When A Moment Turns Into A Lifetime

9. Radiant Halo

10. Eternals

11. Band of Brothers

 

 

Finnish power metal band Excalion is one of those bands I’ve known of for a long time, as a fan of the genre, but for some reason or another, I had never listened to a full album of theirs until very recently, only hearing a song or two here and there. The band has always been regarded as a solid band within their genre, not one of the absolute best, but reliably entertaining with each album, and after a long break following their 2010 release High Time, they came back as strong as ever with a new lineup for their 2017 release Dream Alive. The first album I heard was the follow-up to that release, 2019’s Emotions, which I found to be a high-quality melodic power metal album: It didn’t quite reach the level of a top-tier album, but it was very enjoyable from start to finish. The band is now set to release their sixth full-length album, Once Upon a Time, later this month, and I find it to be a slight step forward from its predecessor, taking everything that worked on that album and taking it to the next level.

Compared to most power metal bands, Excalion’s style is fairly subdued at times, relying heavily on vocal melodies and overall atmosphere, instead of being overly heavy, fast-paced, or epic. Guitars and keyboards are equally important for establishing the mood, with both Aleksi Hirvonen and Jarmo Myllyvirta being given plenty of room to shine. There are bursts of heaviness throughout, but for the most part, the guitar work is very light and melodic, blending in well with the overall atmosphere of the album. Keyboards are also very important to the sound, sometimes being the main component of the music, while other times being more in the background, but at all times the keys do an excellent job of setting the overall mood and tone for the tracks.
Production is very good, with guitars, vocals, and keyboards all being very prominent in the mix, and everything sounds great. Vocalist Marcus Lång is now on his third album with the band, and he sounds excellent here, clearly fitting in perfectly and carrying the tracks nicely. He has a deep, powerful voice which at times sounds similar to former Nightwish bassist/vocalist Marco Heitala, though his range is much more dynamic, and he’s much smoother with his vocals overall. Songwriting is strong across the board, with a good amount of variety in the tracks. There are more traditional, speedy Euro power metal tracks such as “Soulbound” and “I Am I”, as well as more mid-paced bangers such as “Words Cannot Heal” and “Radiant Halo”, a nice ballad in “Eternals”, and some slower, moodier tracks such as the title track and “When a Moment Turns Into a Lifetime”. Every track is great in its way, though obviously, the heavier, faster tracks tend to be my favorites.

The album opens up with “Keitele”, an extended intro track of sorts, which features some very nice melodic guitar work, light backing keyboards, and bits of vocals here and there. It’s longer than most intro tracks, but still feels more like a mood setter than a fully fleshed-out song, and it does a nice job at that. The first full song is “Resolution”, a track that never fully speeds up, but stays at a fairly up-tempo pace throughout, with some very upbeat, melodic guitar work and atmospheric keys. The verses are more relaxed and laid back, with some powerful vocals from Lång, while the chorus speeds up a bit and is more melodic, with some huge vocal melodies which allow the singer to showcase his voice. The solo section is quite showy and fun compared to most other tracks, still as melodic as always but with a bit of technical showmanship to go along with it. Overall, it’s a very strong opening track.
The pace picks up in a big way with “Soulbound”, one of the most classic power metal-sounding tracks on the album. It’s a heavy, speedy guitar-driven track, with some heavy riffs, intense drumming, light keyboards, and a very fun, catchy chorus with more fantastic vocal melodies. The whole song is excellent, but that chorus in particular is one of the highlights of the entire album. Next is the more mid-paced “Words Cannot Heal”, which alternates between a very rocking main riff, and some flashy, retro-sounding keyboards. It’s a very fun and catchy track, with the main riff being irresistible, while the chorus is also strong, being equal parts melodic and catchy.

From here, the album enters a bit of a calmer section, with “Amuse Me” being fairly similar to the previous track, though slightly slower and lighter. It’s a very keyboard-driven track, with some rather bouncy keys and vocal melodies throughout, with the chorus, in particular, being the standout, due to some slightly pop-influenced vocal melodies. However, the track maintains bits of heaviness, especially during the instrumental sections, so it ends up being a very enjoyable melodic metal track. The pace drops further with the title track, a very atmospheric, slow-building track, where the dark, moody keyboards are very much the main focus, though the guitars do get heavy at times, and are also excellent. The verses are very slow-paced and atmospheric, while the chorus opens up a bit with some nice vocal melodies. It’s a slow-paced track for most of its run, up until an explosive instrumental section a little ways past the 4-minute mark, where the tempo picks up in a big way and the band goes all out, with one of the most memorable instrumental passages on the album. Two tracks later are “When a Moment Turns Into a Lifetime”, a very similar track, with a slow build, and a huge emphasis on atmospheric keys. If anything, it’s the lighter of the two, with the guitars being less prominent, and the track being even more laid-back and melodic, with even the big instrumental section being very soft. Both tracks are excellent, each with its unique features despite being similar overall.

In between those two tracks is “I Am I”, the fastest, heaviest, and most explosive track on the album, by far. Following an epic screeching intro and some light keys, the guitars kick in immediately and the song goes full speed ahead, with intense drumming and blazing fast guitars, which never relent for the entire track. The verses are on the heavier side, while the chorus is more melodic, with some huge melodies and epic vocals, but it stays very fast-paced and fun throughout, with the final run-through being especially fantastic. It’s easily my favorite track on the album. Two tracks after that are “Radiant Halo”, another one of those tracks which mostly stays mid-tempo, but with an upbeat feel to it, and it moves at a nice pace as it goes along. The verses are lighter, and more key-board driven, while the chorus is fun, upbeat, and very catchy, and the solo section is also excellent.

The lone ballad of the album is “Eternals”, a very nice keyboard-driven ballad, with some beautiful melodies and emotional lyrics throughout, with Lång delivering one of his strongest performances on the album, especially during the chorus, where he gets to go all out, and of course, the guitar solo towards the end is also quite beautiful. Closing out the album is “Band of Brothers”, another heavy, fast-paced track, with a big emphasis on heavy guitar work. It doesn’t get quite as intense as “I Am I”, but it’s still quite heavy at points, and moves at a fast pace, with the chorus, in particular, being very explosive and having some epic backing vocals to add an extra layer of fun. It’s an excellent track overall, and it ends the album on a high note.
Overall, Once Upon a Time is an excellent album, which sees Excalion continuing with their brand of melodic power metal, and taking it to a new level. There’s a bit of something for everyone, with some explosive, speedy power metal, as well as some more mid-paced tracks, and some lighter, slow-building keyboard-driven tracks, all brought together by a fantastic vocal performance from Marcus Lång. Fans of the band should be very pleased with this album, while any power metal band unfamiliar with the band would be well advised to give this album a listen, as it’s probably the band’s best work to date.

 

Ratings: 9/10

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.

 

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