Hailing all the way from sunny Russia, Estate are the proud bearers of good ol’ fashioned Europower. Fantasia, their début effort, is brimming with cheesy keys, up-tempo riffing and questionable English accents – the hallmarks of power greats such as Sonata Arctica and Helloween. Nonetheless, the musical term ‘fantasia’ implies a nonconformity to a specific style, and there are certainly a few curve balls here. So, is Fantasia a cohesive whole or a mess of influences?
This is a record of two styles. Across the first four tracks, as well as in a couple of others, there is a rigid compliance to the Euro-power genre. “Intro” features an epic orchestral swell, “Hero” apes Sonata Arctica with its fusion of energetic keys and guitars, and “World Without You” is the obligatory ballad. They marginally distinguish themselves with their husky vocals, preferring a rougher melody to a ball-tightening one, notable on the slightly heavier and more classy “The Night of Asura.” The aforementioned ballad also demonstrates this, and has an undeniably catchy harmony of guitar, piano and vocals. Aside from this, the power metal songs don’t forge their own style and are derivative of other bands who have done the same thing better. There’s no bite, it’s all very clean and the melodies are poppy but have no lasting appeal.
The other style goes from a logical integration of folksy instruments, to 80s glam influences, and all the way to “what the fuck were they thinking?’. “Tarantella” integrates flutes to passable effect and “I’d Rather Die” has a fleeting glimpse of a traditional whistle – though such folksy power metal has been done before. “You Are Not Alone” evokes Scorpions, forgoing overt keys and synths in favor of greater swagger and groove in the riffs. It’s a decent song, but an isolated episode, feeling discordant with the record as a whole. This continues on to “Absolutely True!”: I really don’t know what Estate was aiming for here. It’s a disjointed amalgamation of jazz, pop and hard rock which straight-up does not work. The issue, disregarding the unimaginative song-writing, is that the influences are not subtly inter-woven with a core power metal sound. Power metal and jazz, or power metal and glam, could work well if consistently pursued and woven into each other. Instead, we get singular songs which do not fit, and bland power metal across the rest of the record.
Additionally, many tracks feel rushed. Not in the sense that there was not enough care given to the recording or production, but that the song-writing is too abrupt. “Intro” could have been a pleasing orchestral mood-setter, but it moves between sections far too quickly and is not given the time to organically develop. The same can be said of “Hero” and “Holy Land (Fantasia)” particularly. With regard to production, what is here is fairly simplistic and doesn’t require great audio fidelity. A decent job is done with the mixing and mastering, ensuring everything is audible and achieving the sound they were aiming for.
Fantasia is disappointing. There was an opportunity to integrate some slightly unusual styles to develop something innovative: instead, there is an integration of the forgettable with the discordant. “World Without You,” “You Are Not Alone” and “The Night of Asura” are quite good, but stand as exceptions to the rule. Estate wanted to bring first-rate cheesy power metal. Unfortunately, all I got was cheesed off.