Back in the early 2000’s, Sweden was a hotspot for classic power metal. In addition to the many well-known acts that were getting rolling at that time, several albums were released by the bands Freternia and Ironware, which were fronted by a very distinctive voice in one Pasi Humppi. Various members of Freternia, including Humppi, formed a little side project called Cromonic, which put out a three track demo in 2005 before apparently expiring. However, new life was breathed into this band in 2013, and finally, by April of 2017, its reincarnation was realized in Time. And let me tell you something: Time has indeed been kind to Pasi and his cohorts in Cromonic.
Often when looking back at those classic albums, I view any shortcomings through rose-tinted lenses. Pasi’s vocals were admittedly imperfect, and an acquired taste to an extent, but no longer. The guy has always had a fine set of lungs, and has clearly made the use of his fatherhood hiatus, because he sounds downright tremendous in every way on Time — and he’s not the only thing that does. The guitar work as well hearkens back to the days of Freternia’s pair of releases, except Patrik von Porat is now more preoccupied than ever providing rapid fills and solos that vary from moderately paced and tuneful to classic shred, depending on the song.
While Cromonic tends heavily toward 80’s heavy metal, there are still several power metal songs featured aboard Time: most notably opener “Another World,” along with “Revenant” and “Mental Cry.” However, the band is arguably at its best with rollicking, anthemic mid-paced heavy metal like “Paradise” and “Tale Of Pain,” which offer huge vocal hooks, sharp rhythm work, and maybe the best guitar solos on the album. Keys are also now a part of the mix, but unlike many European bands, they are well-integrated, in moderation and not at all gaudy or distracting from the meat and potatoes.
At first blush, the tail end of this album seemed weak to me, but after repeated listens, it has proved itself merely more subtle. “The Hunt” could accurately be accused by some of being a tad long and plodding, but I enjoy it more with each listen. Likewise, “Dragonsong” is a strong war ballad in classy Nordic heavy metal fashion. Truth be told, there’s nothing across this entire work that I would purposefully skip on a regular basis — and I don’t think I can say that about anything else that’s been released this year. No doubt nostalgia has a substantial hand in making Time my pick for Album o’ the Year in 2017, but I contest adamantly that that nostalgia is built upon proven, rock-solid songwriting which has only improved with time.
The bloodlines of Swedish power metal royalty have seen a substantial rejuvenation of late. Between this, a respectable new Nocturnal Rites, a tremulous but quality offering from Cryonic Temple, newcomers Palantír, and now confirmation of a new Freternia album in 2018, I am positively chortling with glee as I repeatedly glance at my calendar to reassure myself that it is indeed almost 2018 and not 2003.
Tracks To check out: “Another World,” “Tale Of Pain,” “Revenant,” and “Paradise.”