Echelon – Secret Power (2022) – Review

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The Trad and Heavy Metal wave is rolling again. The RMR crew discovered a few pretty cool bands – new and old – with the NWoBHM genes in their blood. That said, many of them reach far into the Power Metal realm. And that’s fine, boundaries are fluent and even the maidens sometimes have trouble deciding which side they want to be on.

So, already the album art of Echelon‘s debut record Secret Power positively screams Power Metal. Complete with strange towers, UFOs, and the Lord of the Ages or something at the controls of the world. All of that against a backdrop of – monument valley.1) So many clichés right here.

And indeed, first appearances can be deceiving at times. Secret Power won’t get you the wild hollering Power Metal usually excels in. Instead, you’ll get a pretty unique brand of Trad and Heavy Metal. Kind of a frugal offering, though. And one that’s not without its challenges.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. Echelon from the sunny Greek island of Corfu2) (or Kerkyra, it’s got two names) started the band back in 2003. The outfit disintegrated in 2006 and came back to life again in 2018 after a cathartic incident that made them revive their band.

Echelon here grabbed pretty much any shiny element they could find in Heavy Metal, mixed well, and poured them straight out of their magic cauldron again. And the outcome is a record that somehow contains many good ideas, and often the right ideas. But – the production somehow sounds so far underwater it could probably find Atlantis easily.

On a Heavy Metal piece, we’re looking for abundant juice, enough energy to scrape our nerves raw and excite us to the point of metallic ecstasy. In other words, the metal needs to be red-hot, to the point that you’ll have to put up warning signs, or else your fans will be burned to crisps.

Furthermore, any band moving into Heavy Metal territory will face stiff competition. There are trve old warhorses out there that will be able to teach newbies a thing or two. Even the maidens went on a Japanese-flavored rampage lately, yet another gang of grizzled metal fighters. Thus, any ‘new’ band out there needs to put up a strong performance, one that might very well blow the biggies of the genre out of the water and break a katana or two.

But all of the above did not quite happen that way. Fancy some examples of things that went awry? The RMR crew found a lot of pretty snazzy riffs and solos that roar forward on a wave of meaty metal with some crunch to spare. On Secret Power, the title track, for instance. But quite often, the run-of-the-mill song structure and the sub-par lead vocals just couldn’t sate our powerful thirst for some brutal vibes.

And the anemic choirish backing vocals3) that suddenly pop up all around the record really take the cake. Emotion, power, screamy passion – that’s what we look for on a Heavy Metal piece. Yet here, we get some sort of a requiem for the undead. And this on a record that likes to go a-stealing on Iron Maiden’s X-Factor4) beat. Arguably not the best era of this still pretty powerful Heavy Metal band.

In addition, for large swathes of the record, someone decided to lock the lead guitar to the melody. Don’t believe me? Try Dying Nation for starters. Even if that one gave us hope with its chugging, fast-moving start at first. Or Forsaken Angel which kinda navigates in the same vein.

But enough said, let’s wrap this up, lest we overheat. You probably guessed by now that the RMR crew over here hasn’t been too thrilled by Secret Power. Here we have a band that truly got the goods, and mostly had the right ideas to succeed. And indeed, some bits and parts of Echelon‘s debut are meaty, powerful, and enjoyable. Yet mostly, they just sank their mighty metal battlecruiser with a listless production, bad songwriting, and a vapid vocal delivery. One that, to make matters worse, inexplicably sits in the middle of the mix, instead of on top of it. And that’s a sad state of affairs.

But I sincerely hope that, by the arrival of the next album, they’ll have ironed out those mighty wrinkles that hamper their access to the Heavy Metal Superdome. The RMR review committee will be watching.

Record Rating: 4/10 | LabelSleaszy Rider Records | Web: Facebook (band)
Release Date: 6 May 2022


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