Arion – Vultures Die Alone Review

I don’t put much stock in award shows or competitions. Really, who amongst us does? Ever since the first Metal Grammy went to Jethro Tull1 metal fans around the world have viewed these sorts of things with more than a little trepidation. So when a band comes my way that came to fame in a competition, it’s more a curse than a blessing. Power metal act Arion (the Finnish act, not the Greek) is such a band. As teens these guys were finalists in UMK, the Finnish qualification program for Eurovision, eight years ago. Since then they’ve released a couple of albums and an EP, and have even recorded a duet with Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd, which would thrill AMG Himself.

Arion can best be described as a modern Euro-power band laced with mainstream sensibilities and symphonic flourishes. The sound is big and bombastic, with huge choruses and aggressive arrangements. The opening barrage of “Out of My Life” and “Break My Chains” exemplify this approach perfectly, hammering us with frenetic drumming, chunky guitars, and short, sharp orchestral hits. The rousing choruses combined with Lassi Vääränen’s impassioned vocals turn these songs into musical adrenaline rushes built for crowds to sing along to. And Iivo Kaipainen lays waste to his fretboard in every song, showing himself to be one of the genre’s top young talents.

Other incendiary tracks include the penultimate “I Don’t Fear You,” with the strongest riff on the album, and “Bloodline,” a collaboration with Battle Beast vocalist Noora Louhimo. Both songs follow the template described above with strong results. When this formula is put to use Arion are at their best, and one has a hard time not getting into these songs; the band’s energy is infectious, and the songs are well-written. When they stray from this format they drift into middling territory, most notably on the final track, a saccharine ballad called “Until Eternity Ends.” Vääränen is out of his comfort zone with this mellow vocal arrangement, and the band simply doesn’t sound like it wants to slow down. Over time, this track became a skip during playback.

There are sweet positives, but despite my enjoyment of many of the tracks the overall impression here is a band that’s trying too hard to craft more hit singles to get back onto the charts. It’s almost as though someone occasionally said “we need to put a duet here, who can we find?”2 “What else would get us lots of airplay?” “Will anyone pay attention to these silly lyrics?” Yeah, I threw that last one in tongue in cheek. Vultures Die Alone is a great example of why I rarely mention lyrics during reviews, but here’s a lovely example from the title track: “The stalker hunts his prey. Those wounded, those weakened will fall for his betrayal.” What does that even mean? Why are they singing about a stalker hunting instead of a hunter stalking? And do vultures really die alone? We need to know!

Slick and safe, Vultures Die Alone is an album that doesn’t evoke strong feelings in either direction. The four or five strong tracks are a joy to listen to, if a bit repetitive, and the changeups, while not awful, certainly aren’t embarrassing. The mix is aggressive and modern (meaning way too loud), and the band is most definitely talented. Keep in mind this is only Arion’s third album, and perhaps they are struggling to straddle the fine line between radio hits and going for the jugular. There’s a ton of talent here, and moving beyond the safe, calculated hitmaking attempts could help them take their songwriting to the next level. Sometimes painting outside the lines is okay, and can actually result in a bigger hit than power-by-numbers.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 9th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Interesting story there: back in ’89 I was working in a recording studio, the owner of which was a Grammy voter. He told me Tull would win, and the voters were giving it to them out of respect for their body of work. “There’ll be plenty of chances for Metallica to win.” They viewed the first award as a lifetime achievement award, which as we all know was total bullshit.
  2. They also collaborate with Cyan Kicks on one song.
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