Terra Atlantica – Age of Steam Review

Steampunk is such a cool aesthetic. Victorian-era styling fused with futuristic tech in a fictional timeline where steam power reigns dominant as the primary energy source. The idea practically sells itself! While I’m not especially knowledgeable on the lore that creators fashioned within the steampunk universe, almost anything bearing the tag garners my attention. My enthusiasm for the genre attracted me to Terra Atlantica‘s sophomore full-length, Age of Steam. Will it be the lean, mean, steam-powered machine I so desire?

The German four-banger continue the story left unfinished on debut A City Once Divine, a story in which the lost city of Atlantis rises from the depths to usher in the Industrial Revolution with their newfangled tech. Of course, the British Empire is absolutely terrified by this stuff, so they challenge Atlantis to a naval battle-to-the-death. Terra Atlantica choose symphonic power metal as their vehicle for this concept, and oceans of cheddar compose the byproduct. Seriously, Age of Steam is one of the cheesiest records I’ve selected thus far, between upbeat leads and inspirational choruses in a major key and a million war horses’ worth of galloping double-bass runs.

Power metal tropes abound in these waters, but that doesn’t exclude some measure of fun by any stretch. “Across the Sea of Time” is an exceptionally saccharine piece of Theocragonforce-core, falling for every power metal pitfall known to man, and yet it charms me with undaunted enthusiasm. “The Treachery of Mortheon” injects the faintest bit of thrashy energy into the mix—not enough to pull it out of the power metal sea, but enough to point it out nonetheless—and “Forces of the Oceans Unite,” coupled with “Quest Into the Sky,” bring out a smorgasbord of fun-factor sure to make every commenter here except for, like, two cringe themselves into the fetal position. I, however, am made of stronger stuff and therefore glean enjoyment from the bouncy tuneage and the tasty bass lines buried within. Album highlight “Rage of the Atlantic War,” too, boasts a sweet set of canned horns backing up basic but memorable guitar-work, a gorgeous string section reprieve, and unexpectedly beefy growls that make a surprise appearance a little over halfway in.

If only every song on the record put out the same verve as those above. Alas, lackluster clauses and more than a few odd choices hold it back from higher scoring. Notable missteps include the baritone operatics in “The Treachery of Mortheon,” which sound odd in tandem with the surrounding music, and sometimes don’t even sound very good on their own. While those come courtesy of a guest singer, the band’s main vocalist also makes mistakes—his one falsetto wail on “Quest for the Sky” induces a wince every time I return to it. Aside from incidentals like these, the majority of the record simply lacks the strength to carry the songs that have something to offer. Very little of the material is memorable, the choruses serviceable but unremarkable, the music generic and uninspired. The closer “Until the Morning Sun Appears” is a perfect example. Boasting damn near every element that Theocracy‘s material also possesses, albeit with an extra dose of lactose, the song fails to wrench the heart into a frenzy the same way a cut like “I Am” does because the songwriting isn’t up to the task. Adding insult to injury, the memorability of Terra Atlantica‘s material is a product of repeated listens, and not the result of excellence.

Luckily for Terra AtlanticaAge of Steam shows me that the band crafts their songs with enthusiasm and conviction. Part of the reason why I like a fair portion of what’s offered here is by the light of sheer passion that shines through every second. The next step is to elevate the songwriting itself to match. With better hooks, crunchier riffs, and about half the cheese, Terra Atlantica poses a significant threat. As it stands now, however, I recommend searching elsewhere (read: Operus) for your symphonic power metal fix.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pride and Joy Music
Websites: facebook.com/terraatlantica | terra-atlantica.de
Releases Worldwide: August 14th, 2020

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