Recently we did our very first album premiere with the debut LP of Philadelphia black/prog/thrash metal act Botis. And we’re doing you the favor of giving you another great album premiere in the form of Dialith‘s debut full-length Extinction Six. In true Angry Metal Guy style, we don’t promote stuff we don’t really like, so you’ll find that Extinction Six is a great listen. I recommend you press play on the stream and let the music do the talking while you read my fawning analysis. Then head for the comments and tell me why I’m right and how my opinions really are the very best. You’ll thank me later and if you don’t, I’ll ban you from the comment section and call you a troll.
So, go on and indulge yourself. That’s right! Kick off your shoes and put your feet up. Lean back and just enjoy the melodies. After all, music soothes even the savage beast.
Extinction Six is the full-length debut of the symphonic power metal band Dialith. I took interest in Dialith because I’m a fan of symphonic power metal, but good symphonic power metal is rare. And, frankly, good unsigned symphonic power metal is an anomaly. Symphonic power has a high bar to reach a “passable” grade; one of the highest in metal. Symphonic bands that release mediocre albums are filled with musicians who are orders of magnitude more talented than many of their counterparts. But to create a great symphonic power record, everything must fit. Talented musicians aren’t enough; compositions, production, and presentation all matter. And, finally, these bands are dependent upon their singer first and foremost. An unconvincing vocal performance is the death knell of the aspiring power metal band. So, with all these pitfalls, Extinction Six could easily spell the early demise of Dialith‘s ambition.
Fortunately, Dialith navigates the pitfalls of their vision with alacrity. The band’s sound is a sweet blend of the best things that the ’90s European scene did well. The driven speed as well as guitar and keyboard gymnastics of Europower, the Björriffs and thrash-influenced intensity of the Gothenburg scene give Dialith a refreshingly heavy edge that power metal has lacked in recent decades. Guitarist and composer Alasdair Wallace Mackie’s riffing is at times noodly (“Quiver of Deception”) and at times edgy (“Where Fire Dwells”), but his playing stands out for having a melodic sensibility that differentiates his style from American counterparts. Alasdair’s work in the upper registers is shared with Charles Woodruff, whose keyboard performance is fun and memorable and whose solos are impressive. All of this happens while the low-end is held down by the talented Mark Grey on bass and Cullen Mitchell on the drums. Cullen’s performance stands out.1 While drummers in power metal bands are often overpriced metronomes, Cullen’s feel is superb and inventive (check “Break the Chains” and “Where Fire Dwells”) and his chops are top notch. Combined, all the pieces create a pummeling, heavy sound that differentiates it from the herd.
Of course, the linchpin for Dialith‘s sound is singer Krista Sion. Her performance is what finally makes it obvious that Dialith has done something special on Extinction Six. A (probable) second soprano, her voice is like a cross between the timbre of Kobra Paige (by way of Michael Grant [RIP] from Onward and Crescent Shield) and the performances of Tarja Turunen. At times she can float over tracks (“The River Runs Dry”) and the sound is reminiscent of pre-Once Nightwish. Krista also has a power to her voice (check “Catalyst,” “Libra,” or “The Sound of Your Voice”) that differentiates her from the pretty-but-small-voiced likes of Liv Kristine and Tarja and puts her into a category more akin to my favorite metal singers in Helena Haaparanta (ex-Crimfall) and Floor Jansen. Her performance is commanding and her talent is clear. She sometimes carries moments and sometimes complements them, but she always fits perfectly with the choral arrangements, orchestras and the heavy rumble under it all.
Though Extinction Six clearly checks a lot of boxes, I have two difficulties with it. First, I long for more power and edge from Krista. This may be a matter of taste, but it may also be another matter. When I listen, it feels like an engineering and mixing problem, where sometimes Krista’s vocal takes become slightly distinct from the music because they don’t match the intensity of the other instruments. When mixed, this mismatch creates a dissonance of expectations that can undermine powerful moments on the album. And this issue compounds my second difficulty. Extinction Six is a concept album and finishes off with an epic, impressive, 17-minute closer. However, the album’s length (clocking in at over an hour) isn’t stitched together in a way that bears the weight of the album’s runtime (a la V: The New Mythology Suite or War of the Worlds). Each song taken individually is good, but in the album’s flow, tracks like “The Wraith” or “River Runs Dry” let off the gas and may drag on an otherwise heavy and invigorating album. It may also be because the band didn’t lean into the concept and orchestration enough in true Blind Guardian or Symphony X fashion.
Finally, though, Extinction Six is both a tremendous success and a promising debut. Of all the things to do with no label support, symphonic power metal must be among the most difficult. Yet Dialith‘s debut cuts a bloody swath through the legacy of Nightwish‘s Once by driving ‘the symphonic’ hard back into ‘the metal,’ eschewing the “frustrated pop careers” trend of the last 15 years. In doing so, the talented Dialith appears to have put heart, soul, and personal savings into producing a stand-out debut. Extinction Six’s sweet, Europower-and-melodeath-influenced onslaught hits just the spot; combining gorgeous melodies, beautiful vocals, and solid fretwork with a dose of groove and speed for an invigorating debut. Dialith‘s Extinction Six is on my shortlist for albums that will be picked up and re-released by a label in early 2020. Here’s your chance to have liked them before they were cool.