Serenity - Codex AtlanticusSerenity is an Austrian symphonic power metal that I’ve just recently learned our very own Steel Druhm has been fawning over, thus once again sullying my hard-earned reputation by rubber-stamping anything that reminds him of his wasted youth. In an effort to put a stop to this travesty, I decided to review Codex Antlanticus myself. Having never heard the band—certainly the facts pursuant to Druhm‘s overzealous ratings aren’t necessary in order to feel offended—I immersed myself in Serenity‘s 5th full length release bracing only for the worst. Hilarity, as one might expect, ensued.

I always assumed that Serenity had a female vocalist, to start. Five records into the tenure of this Austrian symphonic power metal band’s existence, I’ve learned that I was painfully mistaken in this assumption. Rather, the band is fronted by Georg Neuhauser—who also writes the music and has a range like a 2nd tenor and the diction of Arnold Schwarznegger. His style reminds me quite a lot of Roy Khan from Kamelot, and that’s not the only thing on Codex Antlanticus which reminds me of KamelotSerenity plays a style of power metal that owes a lot to that sound. The melodies are sickly sweet, sprinkled with major keys, and there’s a sense that they take themselves a tad more seriously than we should probably be comfortable with.

Not that there aren’t reasons to take Serenity seriously. One of the places where they excel is in the composition of orchestral pieces. Unlike a band like Rhapsody of Fire, where the orchestral pieces rest in an occasionally uncomfortable balance with the rest of the music, Serenity has the ability to balance their orchestrations with often chunky rhythm guitar lines. When at its best, like on “Iniquity,” french horns and choirs blare out counter melodies to the Neuhauser’s epic chorus. “Spirit in the Flesh” features a driving introduction—courtesy of Nightwish—that rates among the most addictive builds on the record. Even the obligatory intro track (“Codex Antlanticus”) amps up record’s feel with the excellent use of rhythm and orchestra.

Unfortunately, these excellent builds are usually teases. “Spirit in the Flesh” peaks and then gives way to a fairly banal verse part before taking a couple minutes to reach the same peak. “Codex Antlanticus” builds up to a fever pitch only to drop off suddenly to the tones of someone’s best ’80s synth rock ballad piano riff. Even when the band goes full on Jim Steinman rock musical—on the epically cheesy/awesome/terrible song “The Perfect Woman”—they can’t help but reach some sort of musical climax only a minute into the song only to… drop it off into piano ballad territory again. In a sense, songs like this give way too much space to Neuhauser’s voice, who despite being the singer, is not really the most interesting part of the band.

Serenity 2016

This is all produced and mastered precisely as you’d expect it to be: over-the-top, modern, with drums that are flat and everything so precise and clean that it robs the band of the intensity of heavy metal. At first blush, I just thought these guys were writing songs that weren’t very heavy. After a number of listens it becomes clear that there’s a core of good, honest German power/thrash on Codex Atlanticus. Drummer Andreas Schipflinger is a veritable human metronome, but he isn’t taking it easy on his drums and amps up the intensity throughout. The riffing from Cris Tían has its fair share of triplets and chunk, while bassist Fabio D’Amore rumbles alongside the drums. Tracks like “Sprouts of Terror”1 and  “Fate of Light” aren’t alone in offering up this heavier side. But there’s something about the cleanliness of modern production and the density of the master that robs the edge that should be embodied by music containing riffs that would make any thrashtard headbang and enough machine gun double kick to scare your pets.

All this way into the review and you’re probably thinking I hate this album. The truth is, however, that I have trouble not liking Codex Antlanticus. While spending too much time with Serenity would certainly give the listener diabetes, it’s tough to deny slick, catchy, and honestly, talented songwriters and the wares they’re peddling. These guys hit the same sweet spot for me as bands like Sonata Arctica and Nightwish, the pure cheese—oh god “The Perfect Woman”—is close to pushing me off the bandwagon, but I can’t help but play it again. And yes, of course, Codex Antlanticus is hardly genre bending. the band borders on being more Kamelot than Kamelot at times. When all is said and done, the stuff I’m not as keen on here doesn’t really sully my enjoyment, but the good bits here—dat orchestra! dem chori! choruses!? chorucices?—are just too good to deny.


Rating: Good!
DR: 6 | Media Reviewed: 256 kb/s mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: serenity-band.com | facebook.com/serenityaustria
Out Worldwide: January 29th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. Surely written by Neuhauser’s testy 4 year-old
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  • mtlman1990

    Rating “Good”! My mind cant take this score.

    • sir_c

      Good! Like in “Unbad”.

    • Irineu Carvalho

      I only come to this blog for the numerical ratings!!

      • You’re fucking kidding, right?

        • Irineu Carvalho

          Kidding, I come here for the write-ups.

          • Prostidude

            Wow, I’ve never seen someone retract a shit they just took so quickly.

          • I come here for the unicorns.

          • That’s legitimate.

    • With a little hard work and belief in yourself, I’m pretty sure you can figure out what the numerical score is.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        With the exclamation mark, this would make it a 3.25.

        • I’ve finally figured out how to work in that extra .25!!

          • Average!

          • We could do newspeak ratings.
            Doubleplus good eh?

          • sir_c

            I fear for the lowest rating, cos that would be Horrendous.
            Which is self-contradictory, obviously.

        • [not a Dr]

          I thought it was just a shouted 3

          • Monsterth Goatom

            How about:
            Great! = 3.25
            GREAT! = 3.75
            : )

          • No!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      1.5

    • [not a Dr]

      Just like the log. “It’s better than Bad: it’s Good!”

  • What if Atlantean Kodex did a cover of the whole Codex Atlanticus album? I wonder what that would sound like. I will have to check this out, because I like my codexes (codexii?) with or without a “K”.

    • Blueberry Balls

      You stole my thoughts while I slept.

    • Codices.

  • Icki

    So it’s a 3.0?

    Edit: Not that I’m against the wordy ratings, but would just be interesting where this ‘Good!’ might lie on the scale… actually I wouldn’t be surprised if you just wrote ‘Good!’ as a reminder that the numerical scale is supposed to have a more descriptive meaning.

    • That’s the idea. Lead with the adjective, not with the number. Because when people look at 3/5 they don’t think “Good!” they think “OMG, AMG JUST PANNED MY FAVORITE BAND’S RECORD!11!!!1!”

      • Rob

        I’m actually in favor of this rating system. If I just (and I do sometimes, with unfamiliar bands) scrolled down and saw 3.0, I might think “meh, I’ll read the review but I might not even click the link.” But I see an emphatic “Good!” and I think, “oh, looks like it’s good!” and I click. and I agree. So there.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I seriously don’t understand why it seems so hard for people to grasp!

  • Pimpolho

    So many AMG reviews! It feels oh-so-good! And since there *is* a numerical rating, only “hidden”, i have no problem whatsoever with this new method of rating.

  • HA!

    • You’d’ve given it a 4!

      • Fidldesticks!

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Is that a new rating?

          • Kryopsis

            3 fiddlesticks out of 5?

  • Darren

    It’s a shame you missed out on their earlier releases. I’ve been following them since their debut after watching them open for Kamelot in London and have been consistently impressed. Velatum from Fallen Sanctuary is one of my favourite songs of all time and I never skip it.

    Unfortunately I think that Mr. Neuhauser is disappearing up his own nether regions a little, if the press releases are anything to go by. Quite a few of the founding members have fallen by the wayside and I wonder if there might be a bit of an ego issue.

    Oh, and as for the Kamelot worship…their debut has a song called Forever about a departed loved one. No idea what could have inspired that track…

    • BaboonKing

      Fallen Sanctuary was the first album of theirs I listened to, and I enjoyed quite a bit. How would you rate it compared to their debut?

      • Darren

        The songwriting is much more polished on Fallen Sanctuary – Words Untold & Dreams Unlived has some great ideas interspersed with some questionable songwriting. However, I’d say the debut is a little less of a typical power metal album and has a much more straightforward metal sound than the increasing symphonic leanings since then.

        Reduced to Nothingness and Circle of My 2nd Life are the standout tracks for me, especially the former which made me an instant fan when I heard it live.

        • JL

          The thing I like about Fallen Sanctuary so much is that they sounded like an actual band. Each song was independent of the others and constructed in ways that kept things fresh and worthy of repeat listens. After that album they got much, much too symphonic for their own good and started stuffing their albums with tons of songs, which resulted in lots of filler. I don’t want stupid concept albums (Davinci, really?) and movie soundtrack metal. I just want the dark, heavy, melodic songs like on Fallen Sanctuary.

          • Darren

            I agree to a certain extent, though I’m certainly not averse to cinematic / Broadway / movie score metal – I just don’t think Serenity are all that good at it and that they were better when the songwriting got more attention than the orchestration.

            The thing that bugs me the most is that you can imagine Georg Neuhauser doing solo albums and being unable to distinguish them from the last 2 Serenity albums at all.

    • brutal_sushi

      I come back to Fallen Sanctuary quite often, and Yes Velatum is a highlight on that album.

  • I fully support the new rating system!

  • madhare

    This new rating system is ingenious! Nothing actually changes, but everyone’s happier.

    Musically I find that the most interesting part in the embedded track is the orchestra horn section stuff. Which imitates Hans Zimmer’s Pirates soundtracks. …so I’ll just go back to listening that instead.

    However, I can totally understand the allure of this. It’s basically the bastard child of Zimmer and… some hair band… Europe maybe. :D

  • [not a Dr]

    If you can’t have enough of the diction of Arnold Schwarznegger, you may want to check out Austrian Death Machine.

  • Oberon

    Is this a new rating system or a new form of smartassery?

    • [not a Dr]

      It’s the same old rating system.
      Look at the top of the page for conversion to familiar and reassuring numerical ratings.
      It’s also the same old form of smartassery.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Oh, good only means a three? I loved it when I heard the sample, but I don’t bother with “3” music. That’s just below me. Even if I did think they sounded really cool.

  • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

    I´m going to press play right now and I´m expecting DILLON/get-to-the-choppa-diction levels.

  • Bea Foroni

    Enjoyed your review. If this was your first introduction to Serenity, I highly recommend you check out Death & Legacy. That was my introduction to the band and is still my favorite.

    Of course, I got this on the same day I received Dream Theater’s The Astonishing, so it’s quite an ask to have a proper review done by this point

  • JL

    Serenity’s Fallen Sanctuary album is amazing in every regard. After that…too histrionic for their own good and not very impressive. They became annoying, actually.