Embers of War by Eternity's EndRelease date: November 26, 2021
Label: Prosthetic Records
First things first. This review is months overdue. But with good reason: it is almost impossible to listen to power metal during the cold, dark winter months. Like techno at 10am, black metal on a beach or crust punk at a kid’s party, it just doesn’t fit.
But now that the cherry blossoms have burst open and the sun is up for more than five hours a day, the wide-eyed, metacular energy of power metal comes into its own. (If you are reading this in the southern hemisphere, then don’t worry – you’ll get your turn in six months or so.)
And this album is displays all the fantastic hallmarks of power metal, even though three-fifths of this band are alumni of German death outfit Obscura (and another member says they are one of his favourites). This is pure, shiny and bombastic, in the finest wailing, shredding, pec-flexing, sing-about-swords-and-aliens tradition.
And it is so much fun. It has everything you want: high-energy tempos, catchy choruses and more cheese than a fondue-fetishist’s birthday bash. And given that the core of the band comes from a death metal background, you can guarantee that they can all play really, really fast.
Eternity’s End was started by Christian Muenzner back in 2014. Their first album, The Fire Within, was a sprawling, neo-classical creation, while Unyielding which followed was a high-velocity concept album and was the first to feature the current vocalist, the iron-lunged Iuri Sanson. And they have sharpened their power tools on Embers of War, aided by the addition of Justin Hombach – more known for his work on the progressive end of the metal spectrum – on guitar.
For this record, they deliberately set out to something escapist and fun, with tough sounding guitars and bombastic choirs (they even hired three members of Iron Savior – experts of the Queen-style choir that are a hallmark of European power metal – to work their magic on the choruses). And boy, did they succeed. The album shares its name with a science fiction trilogy written by Gareth L Powell. Whether it had any influence on the subject matter I have to confess I do not know.
There is a loose concept – something to do with interplanetary explorers coming to blows with the locals – interspersed with songs about claiming victory with angels by your side. And the album’s highlight, ‘Arcturus Prime’ contains this line which could be in any power metal album made ever: “In the eye of the storm, on the edge of the blade. In unity we stand together. Defiantly meeting our fate, into the night.” The chest-beating melody is sung with incredible gusto by Sanson, accompanied by a choir/gang. If athletes got hold of it, it would end up banned as a performance-enhancing substance. It is that powerful.
Indeed, the musicianship and songwriting are excellent throughout. There are dizzying guitar solos and choruses that would hook a whale, accompanied by galloping drums – and basslines which deserve their own paragraph. So here goes:
Bloody hell, the basslines are great. It is not often that you feel the need to doff a cap at a bass arpeggio, but this album is replete with them. And the solo in ‘Arcturus Prime’… amazing. Given the death metal background of the band, it makes me think I should pay more attention to the bottom end of all those Cannibal Corpse records I use to scare my children.
I could go on and on about my favourite parts of this album – the aggressive opener, ‘Dreadnought’, or the short, neo-classical slow section in ‘Shaded Heart’, for instance. Or the charging, riff-laden chorus of ‘Hounds of Tindalos’ (influenced greatly by the band Running Wild, according to Muenzner), or the enormous nine-minute title track which serves as the finale.
But I won’t. Just take my word for it that if you like fun, loud, excellently played and well produced metal that shines so brightly in the sun that you need a welding mask, then this is for you.