WARNING: AMG Legal has demanded that I request you, the reader, to please remain firmly seated whilst listening to the embedded track below. We are not responsible for any bodily or property damage incurred if you fall and break your ass open in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
This album absolutely fucking broke me. You see, the AMG style guide requires blog contributors to make careful scoring decisions based on how good or bad an album is. In terms of quality, Tales of Gaia’s debut Hypernova, in direct defiance of this foolproof system, is absolutely paradoxical. It is both one of the best and worst power metal albums I have ever heard, an amazing contradiction of a record that lacks so much as a hint of self awareness while also never taking itself seriously. The score you’ll arrive at in four paragraphs’ time isn’t so much a careful choice as it is an impulsive pick brought on by days of deliberation and hours of water boarding at the hands of AMG’s HR department. However, the descriptor attached to that score – embarrassing – doesn’t nearly do Hypernova justice.
Before we delve into why Hypernova is essentially the power metal equivalent of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, let’s take care of some housekeeping. This Spanish band revels in the school of power metal formed in the early-mid 00’s by bands like Power Quest and Aquaria; an ultra indulgent, ludicrously cheesy concoction, drenched in keyboards and knock-off Disney melodies yet light on, well, anything that makes metal “heavy.” This stuff is musical kryptonite even for many power metal fans, but as I actually used to listen to a lot of music of this style, I absorb a sort of nostalgic warmth from it. It brings me back to late nights playing video games and Skyping with friends, long before the responsibilities of adulthood took hold. Is it good? Oh, hell no – but for even the most ardent power metal nay-sayers, the vocal work makes the trip more than worth it.
There are moments in life that I will hold forever in my long-term memory: the first beer I shared with my father; the day my wife and I delivered our vows; the birth of my son. In the decades to come, I will cherish the first time I ever laid ears upon the voice of one Néstor Català alongside these pivotal moments in my life. The first time this unholy cross-breeding of a Despicable Me minion and Stevie Nicks reached my ears made something snap in my brain, reducing me to a puddle of laughter-induced tears as my mind struggled to comprehend that this was supposed to pass as the voice of a metal vocalist in a non-parodic manner. Oh, and by the way, this isn’t even Tales of Gaia’s first vocalist. They had the opportunity to start anew with fresh vocal talent, yet someone in the band heard this Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-meets-Peter-Cook-in-The-Princess-Bride voice, said “fuck it, that’ll do!,” and hired him without so much as a passing thought that maybe, just maybe, this guy would be total fucking poison to their band’s credibility.
Aside from the vocals, Hypernova instantly qualifies for so-bad-it’s-good status due to Tales of Gaia‘s tone deaf earnestness. I’ve reviewed several bad albums, many of which flop due to an inescapable feeling of apathy. ToG, conversely, plugs along with a sense of childlike optimism, totally nonplussed by their awful frontman while displaying unwavering devotion to the most obvious of power metal sins. The rhythm guitarist and drummer seem to know two patterns apiece; not because that’s literally all their brains are programmed to perform, but rather because that’s the kind of limited instrumentation that the genre has sworn by for decades. So limited is Hypernova in its approach that it feels like a rip-off of rip-offs, a distillation of power metal’s schlockiest side into the bare minimum of what makes the style functional. There isn’t a whiff of irony to any of this, which makes it at once more terrible and somehow charming.
Hypernova is goddamned adorable. It’s horrible to be sure, but the sheer awfulness of the vocals coupled with the obsessive dedication to power metal tropes make Tales of Gaia the most hilarious thing to come out of the genre in… well, possibly ever. Could I ever give Hypernova an earnest recommendation? Absolutely not. Will I be handing this out as a gag gift and playing it for my friends in my car for laughs for the foreseeable future? Abso-fucking-lutely. Will I endeavor to plaster that album art on the side of a van someday? Like you even have to ask.