In 2013, a young German band by the unassuming name of Evertale took the power metal world by storm with an independently-released firestorm of a fantasy power metal debut in Of Dragons And Elves. The band was hurriedly signed to NoiseArt Records and the album re-released, much to the relief of international fans. It’s been nearly a four-year wait, but a follow-up in the German’s signature power metal style is finally here. The singles have been respectable, if not mind-blowing; the cover artwork solid; the theme appropriately within the realm of epic, easily-digestible fantasy and science fiction; and by all appearances, it seemed as if the band was on track for minimal changes to its sound for The Great Brotherwar. I was expecting this album to hit like a truck upon first reception, but unfortunately, some of the band’s magic seems to have worn off.
In terms of general sound and style, The Great Brotherwar is a direct continuation of the band’s debut. Evertale plays a texturally heavy brand of (dedicatedly) keyboard-free Germanic power metal akin in general sound at times to bands like Blind Guardian and Savage Circus, but while Matthias Graf’s vocals are nearly as distinctive as those of Hansi Kürsch to my ears, his throaty, gravelly tenor is of a decidedly different timbre. Dual lead guitars, frequent drum fills, aggressively sung/spoken verses, and frequent, amply layered vocals dominate the band’s sound. This time around, we are mercifully spared from a ridiculously overlong album (Of Dragons And Elves clocked in at over 82 minutes, which is longer than the new double LP from Threshold, for reference), but unfortunately, there’s more filler to be found here.
You see, Evertale’s delivery can (and does) get fatiguing, and when a strong vocal melody is lacking, the group’s uptempo tracks can definitely bleed together. Despite the absurd length of the debut, I found it sprinkled generously with big hooks. In comparison, I assess The Great Brotherwar as sorely lacking, with only two genuine standouts in the energetic “The Journey To Iskendria” and the Elder Scrolls-inspired “And The Dragons Return” — neither of which hold a candle to the likes of “As Tarsis Falls,” “The Crownguard’s Quest,” and “The Last Knight.” Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm is in part due to the shift in source material (the debut drew inspiration from the Dragonlance universe, as opposed to Warhammer 40k and a smattering of one-off songs), but I think it’s quite clear that despite consistent quality, there’s just a whole lot less variety and evident songwriting creativity.
Disappointment is a tragically familiar sensation when it comes to German power metal, but its claws are especially sharp at this juncture. Prior to the last few weeks, I probably would have said The Great Brotherwar was my single most hotly anticipated follow up from the German hall of the genre — heck, one of the most promising, period. A quality, mature fantasy concept album is something that is rarely accomplished, but base video game and metal worship acts are a dime a dozen, and witnessing a band of Evertale’s undeniable potential engage in faffery like this (“Chapter 666?” Really?) without producing a host of infectious choruses is a crying shame. Now, perhaps ironically, there’s a buried treat here: a cover of Van Canto’s “Take To The Sky,” which happens to be one of my favorites from that “a cappella” metal act. Granted, Evertale’s cover isn’t as good as the original, but a conventional metal act covering an original song by a band that is essentially a glorified gimmick which became known for covering songs by conventional metal acts is… not something you see every day.
I can’t look down my nose too harshly at Evertale. By most standards, The Great Brotherwar is a meaty slab of quality metal, if a certain, sizeable step back from the band’s bold beginnings. For those unfamiliar with the band, lines can be drawn to many aggressive, guitar-driven German acts like those mentioned above, as well as Solar Fragment and maybe even Paragon. Anyone not familiar with the band who enjoys what they hear here should most certainly continue to look back to the debut — and thank me later.