Okay, I’ll admit that what first drew me into Dangerous Days, the debut offering from Italian traditional metal act Hyperion, was its eye catching artwork. I don’t usually gravitate towards heavy metal albums, but I guess that, deep down, I’m no better than a toddler, drawn to bright colors, sci-fi spacesuits and cool-ass monster designs like my 1.5 year old son to literally anything he isn’t supposed to touch. This admission to superficiality aside, Dangerous Days is an album I would have been hooked on even if1 its art had been that of a steaming pile of rainbow colored unicorn dung. It’s not quite great, but it makes for a helluva fun and addicting spin that, unlike so many other modern takes on traditional metal, doesn’t crutch on its influences with its full weight. Moreover, it foreshadows significant room for future growth.
Hyperion is an act that seemingly appeared out of the ether this year with hardly a blip of underground hype behind them, so I essentially had zero expectations going into this release. That was the case, at least, until opening cut “Ultimatum” rocketed my hype levels to the stratosphere. At a refreshingly concise three and a half minutes, this is an immediately engaging thesis statement of everything Dangerous Days has to offer, with speed metal briskness, thrashing gallops, soaring power metal guitar harmonies, and Slough Feg-esque, free-flowing melodic riffs coming together in a stunning track that’s my favorite piece of traditional metal this year. This adrenaline rush of propulsive songwriting is never quite matched elsewhere on the record, but it’s an accurate representation of Hyperion‘s sound regardless, and leads into an album that’s an admirable display of consistent quality.
And really, on the songwriting front, this is the only complaint I can levy against Dangerous Days: it never quite re-elevates to the same level of condensed quality as its excellent introductory track. The rest of the record is certainly good, but the following cuts rarely dip below the five minute mark, and Hyperion’s energy level, which typically sits at an awkward medium between mid-paced stomps and full-on thrashing aggression, never quite makes these longer cuts totally engaging. Yet the constructions themselves can be, at times, deceptively clever. “Ground and Pound” and “The Killing Hope” in particular feature instrumentation that adds and subtracts components and dynamically adjusts the tone and tempo to match the peaks and valleys of the narrative lyrics. With individual topics ranging from boxing matches and trench warfare to invasive government surveillance and epic sci-fi yarns, Dangerous Days is uncommonly intriguing and diverse from a lyrical perspective.
On the performances front, Hyperion is a respectably talented array of musicians, the most immediately impressive being guitarists Davide Cotti and Luca Fortini. Their thrash runs are relatively straightforward, but the melodic and occasionally progressive lead riffs are far more intriguing, and can hold legitimately intriguing note progressions for the attentive ear to uncover. Vocalist Michelangelo Carano, while not the most technically impressive frontman, sports admirable range and a cool accent, and sounds like he’s having a blast with the material. Drummer Marco Jason Beghelli turns in a solid effort that could admittedly use a bit more variety and personality, and the so-so production doesn’t exactly elevate his contribution. The drums and rhythm guitars sport weak tones with the latter lacking clarity in the lower registers, but the mix is at least decent, if unnecessarily compressed.
Hyperion is so, so close to being a great heavy metal release that it feels like I’m giving it the strongest 3.0 possible. At forty-four minutes it strongly encourages back-to-back listens, and even though it doesn’t fulfill the promise of its opening minutes, it so consistently reaches a high bar regardless that I never felt compelled to skip any track. If nothing else, I can’t remember a debut in recent memory that showed greater potential for upward growth; the necessary ingredients for a stellar follow-up are already here, so long as Hyperion can successfully channel them into a sophomore release. Until then, if the idea of a traditional metal album that effortlessly injects elements of thrash and power metal into the proceedings strikes your fancy, Dangerous Days is an easy recommendation.