After the medieval dumpster fire that was the last Kaledon album, you’d be justified in asking why your friendly neighborhood Steel Druhm is reviewing their latest platter of hobbit beshirted LARP guild metal. Call me a glutton for punishment, but a certain morbid curiosity drove me to give the promo a spin to see if there was any improvement from last time. Lo and behold, there was! Though this is very much the same ridiculously overblown, Italian variety Euro-power with all the pomposity and bellicose bombast that goes with it, they’ve improved the writing and performances enough to make it tolerable, even enjoyable! Since no one is more surprised by this development, I felt they deserved some credit for their efforts, so they get a goddamn review!
After the typical wizards in wonderland intro, “The Calm Before the Storm” sallies forth with a generic, but very listenable cheese and cracker platter of fantasy themed speed. It has some balls to go with the bells and whistles and it’s an energetic, well played piece of Velveeta. “Friends Will Be Enemies” is a more aggressive burner that wrings the Stratovarius template for all it was once worth while providing tasty speed for speed’s sake. This Stratovarius (and a slight Helloween) influence reoccurs throughout the album, often to good effect.
The high points include the Trans-Siberian Orchestra excess of “The Party” where Celtic harmonies get crammed in alongside Avantasia pop power. There’s also a rollicking, piratey riff that Running Wild would gleefully abscond with after much YAAARing and throat cuttery. Even better is the musical hot mess of “The Evil Conquest” where the band tries to marry thrash, blast beats and tasteful stadium rock with their usual sound. It’s a volatile match to be sure, but it’s great fun to hear as the parts grind against each other like tectonic plates.
Even the arrival of the dreaded power balled doesn’t completely turn off the lights, since “Elisabeth” is vastly superior to the soapers on the last album, which still give me nervous tics when I think about them. They bring in Angela Di Vincenzo (Kyla Moyl) to carry the chorus and she makes it work better than it probably should. Is it still trite, silly and corny? Umm, have you heard Italian power metal before? The important thing is, it makes you chuckle rather than choke on your Mr. Pib. In even better news, none of the other songs tank and some are heavier than you’d expect. On top of that, they have a pretty powerful, manly production which gives the material enough crunch to offset its intrinsically fruitastic leanings.
I’m also happy to report that Marco Palazzi annoys me much less this time out. He isn’t the best vocalist out there and he lacks that wild upper range you’d expect, but he seems more polished and in control and hits the fist-in-the-air choruses with enough sincerity to get them over. His performance however is a second banana to the fret board masturbation of Alex Melle and Tommaso Nemesio, who spend the bulk of the album frantically flinging cheese at one another and at new keyboardist Paolo Campitelli, who lustily returns fire with more harpsichord abuse than anyone’s heard since the 1700s. All can play and none are afraid to wank until there’s no wank left unwanked. Some of the riffs and harmonies are quite impressive and several may make you dance the forbidden dance of the dungeon master. The guitar tone is heavier than other acts of their ilk and that pays dividends on tunes like “The Calm Before the Storm.”
This kind of “my sword tis bigger than thine” music will never be my favorite, but by incorporating more traditional power metal ideas and tightening up their writing, Kaledon takes a pretty big step here. My dog still barks whenever I play these guys, but whatever. If you love this kind of dragon metal, grab the broom handle that passes as your sword of troll probing, don a heroic stance and play this as loud as your parents allow (because you live in their basement and need to respect their rules). These nerds be raging.