Next up on the AMG stack of rotating power metal promos is the fourth studio album from Argentinian independent sympho-heavy/power entity Preludio Ancestral, a band heretofore bound to digital obscurity in the South American underground. The band’s past fits with my general impression of many underground metal acts from South American nations: a strange amalgamation of Spanish and English lyricism, bizarre album cover art, and a penchant for very eccentric, almost anarchical musical stylings that run the gamut from alternative rock, Manowar-hailing shirtless heavy metal, and Euro-styled power metal across individual albums. Though Oblivion does suffer a bit from the latter, it’s at least entirely sung in English, and it’s not hard to follow what these fellows are about. The cover art is actually kind of cool: a dark, stormy portrait of sinister riders, evocative of the (selectively interpreted) pop culture version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The album kicks off with a trio of agreeable power metal tracks. These remind me most of a number of mediocre Italian power metal bands and releases that came out on labels like Underground Symphony in the early/mid 00’s, and the list of guest vocalists on the album jives appropriately. While the production leaves something to be desired – the bass is strangely dominant, and the vocals unusually recessed – the quality of these songs is respectable enough to be a solid average, with a stand out chorus or two. With a title like “Ready to Rock” however, you know things are going to go in a different direction. Indeed, track five turns things upside down with a radio-friendly rock anthem that, while not as bad as Dark Moor’s “Just Rock,” sounds like something that should be reserved for Jørn’s solo career – and likewise, those falsetto screeches should be left to someone better equipped for them.
I’m not sure if “Ready to Rock” really made that sour of an impression on me, or if the remainder of the album is indeed subpar in comparison to its header, but nothing remarkable surfaces for the duration of Oblivion’s mercifully short run length. Closer “Metal Walls” is at times similar to what happened when Elisa Martin quit Dark Moor, with its badly accented, electronically augmented spin on slightly industrialized power metal. My reaction to it is, predictably, just as poor. It’s not the only place that Preludio Ancestral uses distractingly out-of-place electronic samples, but it IS the only one where the band goes full-on Euro-pop for a little while. Let’s stop talking about this song.
What’s “redeeming” about this album amounts only to what it does competently. Some of the vocal melodies on the less instrumentally sparse (read: qualifying as heavy or power metal) songs are pretty good; the bass fretwork is undeniably pretty sweet, though the rhythm guitar takes a serious backseat; and the drumming is respectably tight. A collection of 3-4 of these songs, less the ambient tawdriness, would have made for a promising EP. Instead, we get a collection of songs that more or less exemplify why so many Spanglish metal acts can’t break through either language or quality barriers to attain substantial acceptance and fanbases.
Oblivion is completely skip-worthy unless you’re a connoisseur of underground power acts from non-Brazilian South American nations, although I’ll tell you right now that this is no hidden gem like Bloden-Wedd, Ancestral Dawn, Nautiluz, or the like. Those already allergic to even the most capable of power metal acts are advised to give this a wide berth indeed, and typical catch-all powerheads like myself can follow the general formula of =IF(“Band name”= español,”IGNORE”). Even the smattering of guest appearances here from the vocalists of bands like Rhapsody of Fire, Celesty (because what we wanted was totally a crappy guest spot and not a new Celesty album…), and Derdian can’t bring this up. NEXT.