Back in 2005, I somehow came across Melancholy Beast, the debut album from a little Danish band named Pyramaze. From what dark corner of the internet I gleaned knowledge of that obscure record I cannot remember — this was long before Matt Barlow would join the band, thereby hurling them into the metal spotlight — but it was a huge album in my development as a metal fan. I spent entire weekends with the CD playing in my portable disc player, while epic fantasy tales, fantastic musicianship, and the high pitched vocals of one Lance King powered me through my college math assignments. I love the newest incarnation of Pyramaze, but the debut gripped me with its combination of Euro-power grandiosity and US muscle, and it remains a personal favorite to this day.1 I’m not quite sure why I’m telling you all of this, other than to tell you that MetAlmighty, the fifth record from Belgium’s Magic Kingdom, has consistently brought that blast from my past to mind.
Having never heard of Magic Kingdom prior to this review, I was surprised to find out that the band’s existence dates back to 1998 and to find out that Mr. Lance King himself had at one point been involved with the band according to Metal Archives. MetAlmighty finds the band slinging power metal tunes that should satisfy fans of bands like Theocracy, Gloryhammer, and the various incarnations of Rhapsody. Symphonic elements bolster big riffs and huge choruses throughout the record’s hour-long runtime, and for the most part the resulting sound is quite satisfying. Bold opener “Unleash the Dragon” incorporates everything great about Magic Kingdom‘s sound, and there’s something about the verses that takes me right back to the splendor of that first Pyramaze album. The sugary Euro-melodies are perfectly balanced with a muscular heft, and the track is a major highlight, giving MetAlmighty a nearly flawless start.
“Wizards and Witches” keeps the momentum going with a straightforward power metal anthem with hints of Celtic flair, and embedded single “Fear My Fury” is a neoclassical burner and another highlight. I wish these two tracks were adjacent — it would give the record an unbeatable three song opening salvo — but instead they’re separated by the mid-paced, medieval, and folky semi-ballad “In the Den of the Mountain Trolls.” It’s a good and fun little song despite some cringe-inducing cheese, but I think it would be better served later on in the album. The chorus of “Temple of No Gods” is an enormous ear worm that has literally haunted my dreams, “Just a Good Man” is a well done emotional lament, and the title track manages to kick enough ass that it makes up for its head-scratching name. Overall, there’s about 45 minutes of very good power metal to be found here.
But that means there’s about 15 minutes of good-to-middling filler. Nothing is offensive by any means, but tracks like “So Fragile,” “Dark Night, Dark Thoughts,” and “King Without a Crown” fall into standard power territory and can’t stand up to the heights of their stronger neighbors. Founder Dushan Petrossi is immensely talented, and has done a good job of incorporating many different power metal styles to make MetAlmighty a diverse listening experience. Brand new singer2 Michael Vescera gives a standout performance, effortlessly melding his strong voice to the varied songs and showing emotion and control in spades. The production is pretty standard for modern heavy metal, but it’s spacious and each instrument is where it needs to be in the mix with the rhythm guitars having a delicious crunch.
With a little bit of editing, it’s likely I’d be typing a different score below, but can you really complain about three quarters of an hour of quality power metal? 3 Magic Kingdom has the ability to stand above the crowded field of decent power metal bands, and they do so several times on MetAlmighty. If nothing else, they took me on a journey to my own past where music of this ilk was enormously important. If you’re like me, and the names dropped above excite you at all, you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy here.