Serenity have been releasing solid power metal albums for a while now, but these Austrians seem to be fairly underrated. I really enjoyed their older releases, especially Fallen Sanctuary (“The Heartblood Symphony” is a great fucking song), and no small part of their appeal comes from the fact that singer Georg Neuhauser sounds a lot like Sonata Arctica‘s Tony Kakko, but Serenity‘s music is generally heavier than Sonata‘s. While 2011s Death and Legacy was good, it was too sudden a jump into symphonic metal, lacked heaviness and got bogged down with too many fluffy interludes. War of Ages sees the band right the flagship and find the proper balance between their increasing symphonic leanings and prior metal edge. The result is a good approximation of what Kamelot would sound like if they replaced Roy Kahn with Mr. Kakko and continued on their merry, pirate-shirted way. You get glossy, polished, symphonic power metal with big vocals (both male and female) and more hooks than you’d find in the average pro tackle box. The writing has improved by leaps and bounds since Death and Legacy and they sound like a band fully aware of what they want to do and how they want to sound. In short, if you like Kamelot and Sonata Arctica, this is about as much a “can’t miss” as you’ll get in 2013.
Things get started right with the album’s first so-called single, “Wings of Madness,” which has huge vocals hooks and a soaring chorus that clicks into the brain pan immediately. Neuhauser trades vocal lines with Serenity‘s new siren, Clementine Delauney and both show themselves to be very gifted performers. The backing music is right off The Black Halo or Epica and it’s all quite regal and fit for aristocratic metal listeners everywhere. Things stay right in that zone from there on and songs like “The Art of War” and “Shining Oasis” gleam with catchy pomposity and grandiose indulgence.
“Age of Glory” stands out by having some of the biggest hooks and because Neuhauser sounds so painfully Kakko-esque, it simply blows the mind. “The Matricide” follows suit and Neuhauser practically becomes Mr. Kakko, right down to his subtle phrasing and vocal patterns. The biggest Kamelot theft occurs during “Symphony for the Quiet,” during which you can almost hear Roy Kahn and Thomas Youngblood banging on the door demanding the return of their songbook. Hell, they even steal shamelessly from Within Temptation on “Royal Pain,” but it sounds so good, you probably won’t care.
To Serenity‘s credit, there isn’t a weak track in the bunch. Although everything sounds like it was lifted from better known contemporaries, it’s all high quality, memorable and very easy to like.
The vocals are the big feature here and Neuhauser really knocks this material out of the park with his big delivery and broad range. Delauney joins in just enough to provide impact and variety, but they wisely avoid overdoing the male/female duet schtick. From a guitar perspective, Thomas Buchberger follows the Youngblood playbook very closely and all his leads are stylish and tasteful and he’s a talented player by any standard. If any complaint is appropriate, it’s that he sounds TOO much like Youngblood and therefore lacks his own personality.
As a unit, Serenity is tight as hell and everyone sounds great. The production is big, bombastic and lush, as this type music should be, and the mix allows everyone to be heard properly. While there are tons of symphonic effects and twinkling keys, they’re mostly kept in the background, which allows the guitar to keep things reasonably heavy and prevent a fruit and loot overload (take note, Stratovarius!).
This is by far Serenity‘s best release and a very enjoyable dose of symphonic power. It would be an ideal companion to the latest Kamelot opus and it might even be a little better due to its consistent hookiness and power. I’m suitably impressed and spinning it in heavy rotation and yes, I’m wearing a frilly shirt and an eye patch. Don’t judge, you scallywags!