This album has been giving me fits. I initially confused the band with a power-prog outfit and volunteered to review it. Well, it’s about as far from power prog as Earth is from the Sun. No, Kaledon is a super mega cheesy symphonic power metal ensemble from Italy and they desperately want to be the next Rhaposdy of Fire. To that end, they pile on the swords, sandals, Spartacus and silliness (and they even roped Fabio Lione into guest vocals somehow [Cold hard Euros, one assumes – AMG]). Though this is their seventh album (most being part of concept series called Legends of the Forgotten Realm), I had somehow missed them all, which is fortuitous, because from my investigations, they aren’t very good.
In fact, Kaledon assaults listeners with some of the most generic, uninteresting power metal in recent memory. If I may be blunt, Altor: The King’s Blacksmith is a heaping helping of cheese coated fruit, unfit for consumption by all but the most ardent LARPers. They try very hard to do all the expected things and fit in, but do none of them particularly well and sometimes do them really badly. Tired, formulaic writing, tedious, generic ideas and limited talent all conspire to make this a painful listen. As if that isn’t bad enough, I accidentally wasted precious time listening to an older album by accident (Legend of the Forgotten Realm Chapter VI) and while that wasn’t good either, it was better than this and it had tons of Hammond organ. Sadly, there’s none of that here to distract from the badness, and they really could have used it. At least they have really big swords in the promos photos….
If you’ve spent any time spinning Italian power metal, you know what to expect. Fast-paced, Euro-power with copious keys, canned symphonics and a singer telling tales of twenty sided dice, dragons and… blacksmithing. Songs like “Childhood” and “Between the Hammer and the Anvil” (duh, it’s a blacksmith concept album) check every box on the I Wanna Be Rhapsody Checklist and things feel very robotic, predictable and uninspired despite some decent guitar/keyboard duels here and there. Better is “A New Beginning” which benefits from a more anthemic chorus and more simplistic, rocking style. Also decent is “Screams in the Wind,” which manages to balance an urgent feel with semi-catchy vocals and unhinged guitar/keyboard runs. The best track by far is “A Dark Prison” which is way more aggressive, thrashy and heavy and is greatly aided by Mr. Lione’s pipes. If the rest of the material was up to this level, we would be onto something serviceable and worthwhile.
Sadly, Altor is saddled with songs like “My Personal Hero,” which induces cringes and grimaces due to awful lyrics and terrible writing. The low point comes with the disastrous power ballad “Lilibeth” which is so fucking bad it almost comes around to good. It’s like the power metal version of “Just a Friend” by Biz Markie and if you think I’m kidding, go jump in front of this train wreck of a song. Terrible.
Besides the writing infirmities, I really can’t stand Marco Palazzi’s voice. He manages to be generic and annoying at the same time and that’s a tricky feat. He’s just not a good enough vocalist to elevate this type of cheesy symphonic power. I can tell guitarists Alex Mele and Tommaso Nemesio have decent abilities and they can noodle up a storm at times, but few of their leads really grab my attention. I suppose the best performance is from keyboardist Daniel Fuligni, but I can’t help wonder why he dropped the Hammond organs. They added something to the older material and it could only have helped here.
Trying to pull off Rhaposody of Fire‘s style of power metal is never easy and even the masters themselves sound too silly and cheesy at times (IT’S AN AVAAAAAAALANCHE!). Kaledon is nowhere near their level and this ends up about as forgettable as power metal gets. It doesn’t feel good to report that the best part of Altor is the album art, but that’s the hard truth. Good for unintended laughs, but not much else; you’d best leave it out in the cold for the White Walkers, if they’ll have it.