News from Germany, courtesy of power metal band Victorius: apparently it’s totally fine to remove pesky vowels from words as one sees fit, much in the same way the Brits pretentiously shove “u” into words that never needed it (let the comments war commence)! Indeed, Victorius is missing an “o,” and likewise they’re missing an “oh” factor; as in “oh, there’s something here that I haven’t heard in every power metal record ever produced.” Right down to its album art and title, Heart of the Phoenix is astonishingly generic, a collection of speedy power metal tracks drawing on influences ranging from DragonForce to Freedom Call that lacks even a shred of originality. For genre devotees, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Derivative mediocrity has been the genre norm for ages, and while Victorius doesn’t break the mold, they are at least solidly average.
Heart of the Phoenix is Victorius’s third outing, and while the best moments here don’t quite match the highlights of their sophomore effort, it is an admirably consistent album. The compositions never stray from traditional pop structures, but the band maintains a high enough level of speed and sprinkle enough great moments throughout to hold my attention despite the simplicity. I found the space-age keyboards of “Sons of Orion” to be particularly entertaining, and the thrashing rhythm guitar work on tracks like “Shadowwarriors” and “Virus” add some crust to what is otherwise a total cheesecake of a record. Highlights aside, you can probably imagine exactly what Victorius sounds like; simple, chuggy riffs and a general air of positivity, all drowning in fluffy synths.
A power metal album as by-the-numbers as Heart of the Phoenix is, unsurprisingly, guilty of several genre sins. As derivative as it is, the album would have been much more digestible with a more dynamic master, but as it’s been produced it sounds indistinguishable from the majority of modern power metal releases. The sound is flat and characterless, and the tones lack personality and punch. For additional annoyance, the band throws in a token track of tepid Nightwish-core at the album’s tail-end that concludes the record with all the force of a wet fart. This conclusion arrives surprisingly swiftly, however, as the tracks are all quite short with the overall length clocking in at around forty-five minutes. Heart of the Phoenix is hardly impressive, but at least Victorius knows how to trim the fat.
My biggest disappointment with this particular collection of songs is that there are no real standouts. All of the tracks (with the exception of the aforementioned final number) are okay-to-good, but at least this means there are no major blemishes, either. With a gun to my head I’d pick “Empire of the Dragonking” as my favorite cut thanks to a pretty good main riff coupled with one of the album’s better choruses. Speaking of good choruses, they’re in short supply here; the choruses of tracks like “End of the Rainbow” (yeah, I know) and the title cut are generically melodic arrangements of notes that vaguely express a sense of positivity with little conviction. Singer David Baßin bears some of the blame here, as his competent yet airy vocals lack grit and remain firmly planted in the same octave for the record’s entirety.
I’ve tried my best to make this review reflect my scoring, but I have a feeling that I’ve focused so strongly on the negatives of Heart of the Phoenix that my score will seem too high. I feel the need to reiterate, then, that what Victorius has produced is a solid if totally unoriginal record, but this style of power metal is so well-trod and unremarkable that it makes more sense to focus on what the band does wrong. Because genre loyalists have absolutely nothing new to latch onto here, consider this review as a guide on whether this album is worth your time if you’re already a power metal fan. Are fast tempos, fun guitar solos, and predictable melodies all you look for in a power metal record, regardless of sterile production? If yes, then Heart of the Phoenix should fit the bill, at least for a few listens. If not, then you may as well move along until the next Galneryus album arrives.