There was a time not so long ago I would have argued for Excalion being one of the best Euro-power acts out there. 2007s Waterlines was and is one of my most played albums in the genre, and 2010s High Time followup was more polished but no less striking and addictive. It seemed as if the band was on the verge of breaking into the next level and giving Sonata Arctica and Stratovarious some serious competition. Then the guns fell silent and Excalion disappeared. I wrote them off as another promising act that died before reaching their full potential and moved on. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised to see their name floating in our promo bay and I hoped they could pick up where they left off nearly a decade ago. Dream Alive sees the Finnish power metallers returning from limbo with a new singer and guitarist, but their songwriting prowess remains as potent as ever. That means the top dogs of Euro-power should be very nervous and looking over their frilly shoulder pads.

As soon as opener “Divergent Falling” gets rolling, the classic Excalion sound returns in all its keyboard-drenched glory. They borrow a good deal from vintage Stratovarious, but with the addition of new singer Marcus Lang (Force Majeure), they sound a lot like fellow Finns Tarot, as Lang is a dead ringer for Marco Hietala. The song is loaded with catchy vocal lines, keyboard fills and a chorus that’s part metal, part Broadway spectacle. It’s something Stratovarius could have written in their prime and it’s pure crack for power metal aficionados. Followup “Centenarian” is even better and an album high point, wih a sound mixing and matching Symphony X, Conception and early Kamelot for a rip-roaring power metal tune I can’t stop spinning. The whip snapping riff-work teams perfectly with the keyboards and Lang lays down the goods with a huge vocal performance culminating in a slobberknocker of a chorus.

The goods keep falling off the turnip truck with power ditties “Marching Masquerade” and “Release the Time” reviving the golden age of Finnish power. “Deadwater Bay” is a big, overwrought pirate yarn with a huge Tarot influence and it’s more fun than a bouncy houses with beer taps. “Man Alive” and “Living Daylights” are just pure power metal saccharine and cheddar and all the better for it. When I saw the album ended with an 11-minute epic, I was worried it could damage the fun ride Dream Alive was turning out to be. Turns out I worried for nothing as “Portrait on the Wall” is just as good as the rest of the album and manages to avoid the pitfalls many power metal bands fall into with long compositions. They take the best tricks and treats from Sonata Arctica and Tarot and weave an entertaining and surprisingly emotional tale that keeps the listener wired in by using recurring refrains and themes. They even work in a moody, depressive segment straight from the Evergrey playbook. It’s definitely one of the catchier long pieces I’ve ever heard and I’m duly impressed they pulled it off.

There isn’t a bad song to be found on Dream Alive, and even though it clocks in just shy of an hour, it doesn’t feel long at all. Quite the opposite actually. Every song is hook-laden, memorable and most importantly, fun. The energy level is almost always high and there’s an infectious urgency to it that keeps me coming back for more. The sound is above-average with a nice balance between guitar, keys and vocals and it thankfully lacks that brickwalled crush much recent power metal suffers from.

I was initially disappointed that original vocalist Jarmo Pääkkönen was out of the band, as I loved vocal-work on their previous albums as well as his commitment to umlauts. It didn’t take long for Lang to win me over though. He’s a more polished, versatile singer with a less prominent accent and fewer struggles with English, though he lacks Jarmo’s wild upper-range. Lang cleaves very close to Marco Heitala for much of Dream Alive, but as I always loved his work with Tarot and Nightwish, that’s not an issue. Aleksi Hirvonen uses a slightly heavier than expected guitar tone that makes the material sound less foofy and he excels at crafting driving, memorable leads and harmonies. The core of the band remains intact and most importantly, so does the top-notch, slick song writing. This is such an easy, infectious spin, it takes me back to when I was falling in love with the genre for the first time with the early Helloween albums.

Excalion has successfully shrugged off a 6-plus year absence and somehow picked up exactly where they left off. In doing so they’ve given me another reason to argue for their genre ascendancy and to recommend them enthusiastically. This could be the power metal Album o’ the Year, so if you haven’t heard Excalion yet, check this out as well as their last 2 albums. Fans of Euro-power will be very glad they did.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Websites: excalion.comfacebook.com/excalionband
Releases Worldwide: July 7th, 2017

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  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Thanks SD….for kindling hope in me for a potentially stellar addition to my PM catalog.

  • Equilux

    Come on, we had so much fun with were-goat love making album, now it is spoiled by some – excuse me – power metal.

    • Man cannot live by goat sodomy alone.

      • Dagoth_RAC

        I have heard that goats can survive by man sodomy alone, though. So be careful! (Unless you are into that kind of thing – who am I to judge?)

    • SelfIndulgence

      So many Goatwhore references missed in the comments section on that review.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Well, there was a goat AND a whore, but no Goatwhore.

  • Oberon

    A really glowing review and there has been a shortage of good power metal

    • Thraeg

      Really looking forward to hearing this (and Orden Ogan) on Friday, but for my money the 2017 crop of noteworthy power metal already edges out 2016, and we’re only halfway through the year.

      2016: Beyond the Black, Theocracy, Avantasia, Helion Prime, Sabaton, Dunedain, Almanac, Eternity’s End.

      2017: Thunder and Lightning, Unleash the Archers, Seven Kingdoms, AfterTime, Cellador, Alestorm, Kobra and the Lotus, Kaledon, DragonForce.

  • foreverAlfon

    meh, its no Alestorm

  • metalcasket

    Pre-ordered this on Bandcamp immediately after reading the review, without having ever heard Excalion before or even checking out the embedded track. Not disappointed!

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Nope.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Agreed.

      Make it stop.

      • Too heavy for you folks?

        • Ferrous Beuller

          I just hate his voice for some reason.

  • OzanCan

    Holy Shit!!! A power metal album review with a 4.0 score? I gotta check it out… well, at least for my wife, she digs interesting power metal stuff
    m/

    • Name’s Dalton

      Riiiiiiighhht.

      “…for a friend…”

      • [not a Dr]

        “… for a friend of a friend” has the advantage of passing the lie detector test.

      • OzanCan

        Man, I said it for my wife, not for a friend… :/

  • SuzyC

    Non-foofy power metal. My favorite kind.

  • rumour_control

    Excellent writing and clever wordsmithery. Love this:
    “That means the top dogs of Euro-power should be very nervous and looking over their frilly shoulder pads.”

    • Nukenado

      That ruffles my chestplate.

  • Mollusc

    There’s an orb trying to burst through the clouds on the cover.

  • brutal_sushi

    *in my near perfect Ralf Scheepers impression… Power FUCKING MEEEEEETTTTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLL!!!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    That’s a pretty sweet picture on the cover.

  • Dammage

    Damn, this is that kind of power metal where you lip sync while driving, and when the hobo at the stoplight sees you he just skips over your car. The best kind of power metal

    • Nukenado

      Ex Deo has the same effect. Tested humanely, of course.

    • Tofu muncher

      i know right

  • Brent Johnson

    Makes miss Kamelot with Khan, the singer here is too generic for my listening skills.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Amazing how this and Weregoat get reviewed the same day on the same website, they couldn’t be any more different yet both are Metal and I dig both.

    • Nukenado

      Dig in the Weregoat cover sense?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Am I the only one thinking “Scallion” when seeing the band’s name?

  • CarvedInStone

    2017 seems to be the year of early 00s Power Metal Bands who fell off the face of the earth making their comeback. First Cellador, then Cryonic Temple and now Excalion. I suppose you could count Power Quest as well although they stuck around a bit longer before disappearing. I wonder who is next? A Twilightning reunion would be nice.

    • ArtifeX

      Nocturnal Rites is also releasing a new album after seven or so years. They were one of my favorite bands from the late 90’s, especially with Anders Zackrisson handling the vocal duties. Must check Excalion, thanks for the review SD.

      • CarvedInStone

        Somehow that totally slipped my mind. Can’t wai for that album to come out! Such an underrated band.

        And it actually has been a decade since the last Nocturnal Rites album was released. How time flies.

        I think Dragonland are working on a new album as well.

  • naoto

    Not bad but in my opinion, the genre said it all ten years ago. Except Blind Guardian, the others are pretty much like copycat of copycat.

    • ArtifeX

      Your argument has a point, but then a friend of mine would tell you that everything is a copycat of Helloween’s Keeper era, and that was 30 years ago. I’ve been mostly away from Power Metal for perhaps the same reason as you, but the embedded track sounds good. No Lost Horizon but still enjoyable. Cheers.

  • Wilhelm

    Sounds better than average, but still formulaic, but I guess that’s power metal.

  • Serjien

    This is right up my alley, thanks!

  • Ono Trümmer

    Nice. Makes me wonder what kind of reaction they would have got with another cover? It’s just plain boring – not in a Weregoat kind of sense …

  • David Prawira

    High score

  • Norpal Nordickson

    That vocalist sounds so incredibly much like Marco Hietala at some points that it’s legit bugging me. Song’s great though.

    • I was sure it was Marco when I first heard it.

  • ToddRob64

    Hey Steely D, just wanted to tell you guys what an amazing job you do.
    I’m a fulltime lurker, first time poster, and I had to create a bloody account to just say this site is fantastic. Soooo many bands I would of never found and great comments section, only downside is the money you guys now owe me!! Keep up the good work

    • Thanks for the kind words, ToddRob! Thanks also for your readership. Nice to hear from you so keep on commenting!

      • ToddRob64

        Can’t make any promises as that was my first post in the history of the internet, can’t stand social media. But the commenters here somehow are “normal” people so we shall see

  • tomasjacobi

    On second thought, let’s not go to Excalion. It is a silly place.

  • People can mock power metal all they want, this kicks ass. Marcus Lang can sing his ass off and the musicianship is very good. I will definitely be checking out more from this group and will look into their older releases.

    I find it funny how people always point out that all power metal is the same. I think it’s that way for anyone who’s not a particularly big fan of any genre. I always felt all black metal was very similar but I am sure that’s not true, I just don’t enjoy the style enough to dig deep enough to hear all the nuances.

  • AnnieK13

    This sounds promising…I think I will check this out along with their older releases. Thanks for the review – this is one I would have missed.

  • Nathan McCain

    This is a 4.0?? I was laughing 1 minute into the first track!
    To each their own, of course.

    • If you like power metal and actually give it a chance it will impress you.

      • Nathan McCain

        Very fair. I rarely listen to power metal, but I have spent a ton of quality time with Carolus Rex due to your review way back when. I’ll give it a couple of spins tomorrow.

  • FelixtheMetalcat

    I recall some stuff from these guys a few years ago and it was pretty tight playing. This review has me optimistic about them improving and I have to give this a proper listen.