Sometimes you get this sense of déjà-vu. Like that prickly feeling down your spine, when you sense something unknown. And it started straight from the beginning of Kaledon‘s newest album Carnagus: Emperor of the Darkness. ‘Tis the flavor of Overtures, a known entity belting away at a Power Metal event. And – lo and behold – it is indeed Michele Guaitoli, who got hired to advance the glory of Kaledon‘s 9th full length album.
The band started to spin their tale many years ago already. In the Year of the Lord 1997 to be precise. A medieval-fantastic story, enacted in a series of albums over time. So, they issued a bunch of story-based records. And as always, those tend to put a tent around the proverbial circus and lend a hand to structure and sanity. But sanity in Power Metal? Sounds like a contradiction of terms.
Oh, and I can already hear the purists: Decrying the cheese-laden and somewhat overstuffed song structures in Carnagus: Emperor of the Darkness. But you know what? They do have a (tiny, little) point. Even if the cheese level is rather low. Kaledon almost went the sorry Amaranthe route, ending up in the dangerous waters of pompous pop metal. To add insult to injury, the high compression levels on most of the tracks surely do not help matters much.
But then, the album kind of navigates around these mighty cliffs others shipwrecked on already and comes out swinging. As you progress down the track list, Kaledon inject some delicious Gloryhammer-esque antics combined with a juicy slice of chaos that Fleshgod Apocalypse is so fond of. Not quite the mighty hammer of glory of the former, but still close enough to home.
And it is impossible to resist the rich riffing, the meaty solos and the ever-present keyboards jockeying for supremacy. The two guitarist – Alex Mele and Tommy Nemesio – shred up and down the fretboard until smoke comes out of the strings. I really enjoyed the sometimes otherworldly riffs and solos that are often and lustily played. Then you got Paolo Campitelli‘s keyboards locked into an epic battle with the mighty guitars. Both instruments tightly link together and create this feeling of power and energy so important to Power Metal.
In contrast, Michele Guaitoli pretty artfully belts away at them lyrics without going all screamy on you. This gives Kaledon a distinct flavor that is still sufficiently different from other Power Metal gigs. Sometimes all this feels like an Italian version of Unleash the Archers without the Mad Max props and moins the screeching around backstage. And they for sure keep the cheese to low-fat and low-carb at all times. Unless other Power Metal gigs that bathe in fondue before hitting the stage.
Yet for sure Kaledon pulled out all the stops and decidedly had fun doing it. And – confusion plagues me – is it the water down South causing this? Same as Arrayan Path, Carnagus: Emperor of the Darkness features these juicy melodies that worm themselves into your ears and won’t let go. I swear, I was madly humming their melodies going through my day, annoying anyone and sundry.
The tracks roar out of the gate at full speed right after the habitual and bombastic intro Tenebrae Venture Sunt. By Loki, why do they still do those? The intros I mean. Be brave and stop the ballast – ahem – bombast. Or at least let the pipes and horns howl away, and then dutifully smother in red-hot metal. But fear not. Once the second track The Beginning of the Night kind of brutally kicks off, things start to look more lively.
Yet, the really mighty battle starts with Eyes Without Life. Power Metal with a cinematic twist at times that WILL follow you around. The Evil Witch is similar in style and will make you sing along after a while – plain fun to rock around with. This one kind of sounds like they went a-hunting in Avantasia‘s backyard and slammed a ton of their own brand on top of everything. Cool track. But why not check it out by yourself?
By the second half of the record the band dug real deep into that coal heap of theirs. And heated their steam machine somewhat good – up to bursting point in fact. A real pressure cooker sometimes. And once Telepathic Messages rolls in, it is metalhead time with some Hardcore-ish Melodeath interludes. However, all this gyrating about the metal landscape keeps Carnagus: Emperor of the Darkness interesting and honest. Yet, the record maintains its course, eyes straight on the epic, bombastic Power Metal compass. Even if the last track The End of the Undead sinks its claws a tad too much into Heavy Metal. Not that I mind, the track features some real sturdy, meat-and-potato metal offering.
To wrap this up, it is difficult to create great Power Metal that makes a difference these days. Methinks sometimes that all themes are already squeezed to death like the proverbial dry lemon. And the genre ranges from pirates hunting for booty on mighty frigates to desert wagons madly rolling about the desert. Or again – Loki forbid – wizards blasting off to space.
Yet Kaledon managed with their pseudo-medieval tale to create spicy Power Metal that is thoroughly enjoyable. Carnagus: Emperor of the Darkness finds the right balance between low-fat cheese and the inevitable epic bombast. The battle between guitars and keyboards, egged on by the artfully delivered vocals kept this metalhead interested for the duration of the record. And that means something. Cool album, folks. I like it.
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