Selenseas – The Outer Limits Review

Seeing the almighty “power metal” banner waving boldly above a Pile of Intrigue in the Promo Pit is a fascinating experience, because it never fails to bring out my optimism and cynicism in roughly equal amounts. On the one hand, I love power metal. On the other hand, it’s such a straightforward genre that even established acts occasionally have trouble with a potentially generic sound. As per usual, optimism won out, so today I will tell you about my experience with Selenseas, a Russian group dabbling in symphonic power metal. The Outer Limits is, essentially, a re-imagining of the group’s 2017 debut, translated into English and with a new vocalist. 2017 meets 2020 – how does it stand up?

Throughout The Outer Limits, Selenseas play fairly standard Euro-power metal. There aren’t many surprises or twists to be found; this is Sonata Arctica meeting Edguy with a dash of Kamelot thrown in and a side of cheddar cheese. What The Outer Limits does have going for it, however, is its orchestrations, which are lush, adaptive, and impressive, without feeling intrusive. You know that obligatory intro track all Euro-symphonic metal bands must include in their albums on pain of death? Well, in this case, “Intro” is actually far too short, and captivates for its full 53 seconds. Following suit, the best songs on The Outer Limits are the ones that use this power for good. “Asgard” and “The Mirror” are strong examples, showcasing promise and potential aplenty in the Selenseas.

But of course, Selenseas and The Outer Limits are more than a pile of pretty orchestrations, and unfortunately, I’m not so excited over the rest of it. Listening through, I get the distinct impression that this album was written on a template, because well before 48 minutes have passed, the songs begin to blur together. For the most part, the rhythm section is given very little to do; a quiet bass mimics generic, muted chugging more often than not, while lead melodies are largely left to the vocalist and keyboards. It’s a shame, really – the back half of the album has a couple of gems in the grandiose “The Milky Way” and the adventurous, Kamelot-esque “The Flame of the Dawn,” but thematic repetition and a lack of variety in vocal melodies weigh the album down. It’s not even strictly that there’s no variety – “The Revenge of the Ifrit” shows how versatile the vocal performance can be, in one of the album’s heaviest tunes – but these vocal melodies always seem to default to long, drawn-out annunciations in a flat, middle-pitch performance that quickly becomes repetitive. With the vocals at the front of the mix and several songs depending on these melodies for their sense of catchiness, this is a serious flaw.

I should clarify that I don’t think the singing is bad, and I don’t think that The Outer Limits is either, but neither do I l see myself coming back to it. It certainly has its moments. The aforementioned “The Revenge of the Ifrit” stands out for its heavy, dramatic approach, while “Asgard” has a surprisingly catchy verse structure and works off of some great leads and orchestrations. But these moments are weighed against issues like guitars that rarely do more than chug away in the background and choruses that don’t really stand out from their surroundings, especially in “Hope,” “Time,” and “The Mirror.” The guitars chug, the keyboards quietly impress, and the singing remains in its comfortable sphere for most of the album. It’s too safe, and not heavy enough for my tastes by a wide margin.

Were I to sum up my feelings for The Outer Limits in three short words, I would say this: not enough happens. There are glimmers of real potential, and indications of talent, but the songwriting ultimately fails to deliver on the promise. The album altogether sounds too much like itself; played too safe and unwilling to step out of the shadow of its influences. I can’t help but wonder if Selenseas limited themselves too much by working with their debut album instead of creating something brand new; maybe I’ve heard too much power metal since 2017? Or maybe new ideas will suit a talented group better. I do hope so. I think I like this band, but on the whole, The Outer Limits is not one for me.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Rockshots Records
Websites: Bandcamp | Official Website | Facebook
Released Worldwide: August 7th, 2020

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