Greece loves heavy metal. This is known. From symphonic blackness to cheese-coated, dragon and sandal power silliness, they’re well represented as fans and performers alike. Now Diviner joins the eternal fight to defend the faith with their Fallen Empires debut, weaponizing a kind of traditional metal with deep roots in the mid-80s American scene. Eschewing most Euro-power frills and fruit paste, the band pledges fealty to the gritty style pioneered by the likes of Manowar, Jag Panzer and Helstar, and continued by new generation warriors like Iced Earth and Visigoth. This approach means you can count on three things: the music will strive for righteous trveness, it’ll pack plenty of muscle, and there’s absolutely nothing here you couldn’t have heard during the Reagan Presidency. Call it chronic nostalgia or stubborn narrow-mindedness, but I’m comfortable with all three conditions.
The title track kicks off the war march in rousing style with meaty, crunchy riffs and gravelly, Dio-light vocals from Yiannis Papanikolaou. Their style reminds me a lot of Remnants of War era Helstar with some Visigoth mixed in for added nutsack. It’s no-frills and extremely direct but it works like a charm. The solos sound as if they were lifted off Painkiller and everything screams classic metal. And they never leave the little niche they build for themselves as becomes apparent on fist-raising, unicorn gelding anthems like “Kingdom Come” and “Evilizer.”
“Riders From the East” injects tasty Maiden gallops and guitar harmonies into an epic tune full of battle lust, perfect for sacking nearby strip malls, and “The Legend Goes On” goes heavy on the Manowar cliches and testosterone with solid results. The wildly inappropriate ESL stumble “Come Into My Glory” will likely earn many unintentional guffaws live, but it’s a solid tune with a good chorus despite exceptionally cheesy lyrics like “mystic signs are calling from places so magic, you won’t believe your eyes,” which I assume refers to Disneyland. Elsewhere “Seven Gates” delivers a thick, Iced Earth riff attack and some urgent vocals from Yiannis
There are no bad songs here and the level of writing is impressive over the course of the album’s 50 minutes. The songs are all simple in design but effectively build to good or very good choruses while featuring solid riffs, harmonies and hooks. You can tell the band worships this kind of metal and that love bleeds out in every note. That’s why this is a deceptive album. On first blush it’s such a simple, meat and taters metal platter that it’s easy to dismiss, but it quickly worms its way into your good graces and earns more spins than you’d expect.
This is a very guitar dominated album and the ready-to-rumble riff work makes the songs hum and pop. Thimios Krikos and George Maroulees deserve credit for keeping the energy level high though most of the material is mid-tempo. They manage this by crafting one classic metal riff after another, each guaranteed to unsheathe the Sword of Poser Intimidation. Though they keep things pretty heavy, there are the inevitable nods to the NWoBHM in the riff-work, especially Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Yiannis Papanikolaou’s vocals are the perfect grease for the 80s war machine, sounding like a mix of Dio and later period Eric Adams (Manowar). He gives the music sufficient grit and spit to make even exceedingly corny lyrics sound tough and sincere, and he’s skilled at elevating his delivery for the big, rabble rousing choruses.
This is one of those little, late year releases you don’t hear much about, but it has a lot to offer us defenders of the old and trve. If you miss the glory days of 80s metal or just need something to spin as you sharpen your axe and gird your loins, Fallen Empires will certainly hit the spot with a few flaming arrows of Spartan anger. Take that, Gloryholehammer!