Diviner‘s Fallen Empires debut was one of the happy little surprises of 2015, offering a burly, beefy and catchy fusion of Iced Earth and Brainstorm. It was easy to digest traditional metal with a bit of Euro-power flair – simple, straight forward and heavy enough to satisfy. Now these Greek metal warriors return with the followup, Realms of Time and it seems the band used their down time wisely. All the things they did well last time have been improved upon. The music is heavier, but even catchier, and the hooks dig deeper than before as they pull out all the stops to make a humdinger of a classic heavy metal album. There are still nods to Euro-power, but the focus is on heavy riffs and big vocals, which is right where it belongs.
Opener “Against the Grain” establishes the band’s mission statement from go and dictates the terms this battle will be fought under. Thick, crunchy riffs pound like something off Cowboys From Hell as Yiannis Papanikolaou roars and rages like Dio mixed with Hansi Kursch. The writing is slick and the playing is tighter than a NYC subway car at 7:30 AM Monday. This is the kind of song you get on board with immediately, enjoy, and then replay before it even ends. “Heaven Falls” is another knuckle duster, packed with urgent riffs like a typical Brainstorm number, but dialed up with some Metal Church-esque intensity. Yiannis’s vocals are perfectly placed and he gives the song that final shove over the top. This one’s been in heavy rotation in the Steelworks for several weeks and shows no signs of fatiguing. “The Earth, the Moon, the Sun” is another ass displacer, sporting hefty riffs and a huge, Brainstorm-esque anthemic chorus that requires grand metallic gesticulation and dramatic face making. So good.
The material is almost uniformly sturdy, high quality fare, with cuts like “Cast Down in Fire” and “Beyond the Border” serving up fat, beefy riffage and hooky choruses. Even better, there’s just enough diversity in approach and tempo from song to song to keep things feeling fresh and vibrant. Songs like “Beyond the Border,” “King of Masquerade” and “Time” feature more Euro-power inflections, but most dispense with the pleasantries and smack you upside the head with the Iron Fist ov Metallurgy. Speaking of “Time,” this is another one that’s really got under my skin, earning tons of replay in a week where I desperately need to be listening to other stuff. My only real complaint about the album is that penultimate track “The Voice From Within” is a dip in quality compared to its hyper-addictive peers. I still enjoy it though, and the whole album is an easy, rocking listen that demands replay.
Realms of Time has much in common with the classic Pantera records in that it’s so heavily riff-driven. George Maroulees and new axe Kostas Fitos bring the thunder with a thick, crunchy tone and penchant for heavy grooves that drive the material forward mercilessly. They do embellish these hard lines with softer power metal edges at key moments to make things more palatable, but the emphasis is kept fairly hefty. Yiannis Papanikolaou’s vocals are better and more polished than last time, feeling bigger, fuller and more dramatic. There’s more of a Hansi edge to his delivery this time (especially on closing ballad “Stargate”), which is great, and he has a gritty, ballsy presence which jack up the intensity of the songs. The track lengths are almost perfect, falling between 3-5 minutes and all designed to hit, hook and heave ho. None overstay their welcome or drag, and the album itself is a tight 47 minutes. This is how it should be done, folks.
Diviner are a band on the rise, and they’ve now earned a place near the top of Steel‘s watch list. This is one of the best traditional metal album thus far in 2019 and it has serious legs. It’s better than their debut and falls just shy of being a great release. If you love Iced Earth and Brainstorm, this is a can’t miss prospect. Invest in this and play it loud enough for the neighbors to hear so they too can bask in the glory of true Greek metal. DivinerER!