Excalion – Emotions Review

Once upon a time, your friendly neighborhood Steel Druhm was a big time power metal nerd. I loved nearly all of it, no matter how cheesy, poppy, dragon intensive or elf friendly it was. With advancing age and the inevitable cynicism that follows, my tolerance for saccharine-sweet Euro-pop-power diminished, and I’ve became increasingly judicious in what is deigned worthy for admittance in the ears ov Steel. One of the few power metal albums I still return to regularly is Excalion’s 2007 opus Waterlines. The Finnish act found a near-perfect blend of heaviness, accessibility and over-the-top fun on that platter and its withstood the test of time and shifts in listening habits. The band went dark from 2010 until 2017s very successful comeback with Dream Alive, and that album too found a coveted spot in my exclusive power metal rotation. Now Excalion is back with the questionably titled Emotions, replete with a very Frozen-esque cover and one of the worst band photos in recent memory.1 With the same lineup from Dream Alive returning, the style is more or less the same, if a bit more poppy and Broadway-ready at times. Can Excalion score the rare trifecta of Steel tested, Steel approved Euro-powered platters?

Not quite, but it’s not for a lack of trying. There are a handful of very good songs here, with opener “Trust” at the top of the list. It’s the same kind of super-catchy, keyboard-heavy power heard on Dream Alive and it’s carried by the charismatic vocals of Marcus Lång, who is a dead-ringer vocally for Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot). The band once again finds that elusive balance between cheesy and heavy, giving the song just enough muscle to sound respectable as the chorus drills into your brain. The Dio-esque “Look out!” at 1:05 is awesome and overall it’s a fun, replayable tune. The band also gets it right on followup “Sunshine Path,” though the cheese factor/show tune quotient is pushing all the needles into the red. “Lost Control” wisely pulls the cooling rods, restoring needed balance with heavier, crunchier guitars for another winning anthem with hooks aplenty.

It’s about a third of the way through that things start to go awry. After the fun and hooky “The Golden Horde,” which sports one of the album’s best choruses, the remainder of Emotions slides somewhat, and while “The Mercy Racers” is good, if a bit safe and generic, emo-ballad “I Left My Heart at Home” is a bust, and lengthy closer “Callsigns,” never seems to kick into high gear or demand my full attention.2 This leaves the listener with a less than stellar impression of the album overall, as most of the really good stuff is front-loaded.

Once again Marcus Lång impresses with his vocal performance. His voice is unusual but appealing, and with a sharp, harsh edge to his delivery, he’s definitely not your typical power metal wailer. Aleksi Hirvonen prevents much of the material from sounding too fluffy and/or poppy through the use of driving, crunching riffs, but this is a less aggressive collection of songs than heard on Dream Alive, and I’m left wishing for more heft and edge on several tracks. Jarmo Myllyvirta’s keyboards aren’t as intrusive as those heard on many Euro-power albums, and for the most part he lets the guitar take first chair. Even when he does come forward, his style tends not to crush all the power from the music, which is admirable. The band is tight and talented, and at a slim 47 minutes, the album is just about the right length. I just wish the song quality was more uniform throughout.

I was apprehensive when I saw the album title, and just like real emotions, this one has its ups and downs. Emotions isn’t a bad album, but it is a pretty substantial drop off from Dream Alive. I’m still an Excalion believer, but this one will not be taking up much space in the my power vault. Your mileage/wattage may vary.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Websites: excalion.com | facebook.com/excalionband
Releases Worldwide: September 27th, 2019

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Let it go, my dudes.
  2. And it seems as if the band wrote it after watching Top Gun reruns, which is a tad cringey.
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