Back in 2007 the American Power Metal band ARMORY released its debut album, “The Dawn Of Enlightenment”. I received a review copy in 2009. You can read my findings at this location. To make a long story short: the album is a must-have for any Power Metal fan!
For the sake of ease, I’ll copy-paste the intro regarding the band’s formation: (…) founded in 2001 by guitarists Joe Kurland and Chad Fisher. Adam Kurland, Thomas Preziosi joined along the way, since those positions still needed to be occupied. And so “The Dawn Of Enlightenment” came out in 2004, but didn’t get enough promotion, which meant that in the period 2005-2007 the band re-recorded the album, now with the help of keyboardist Peter Rutcho, who played the keyboard lines for the album. On the original recordings those parts were programmed. “The Dawn Of Enlightenment” came out then on the 28th of December 2007. For the live performances the band needed a drummer and asked Tom Vieira to join them.
Anno 2013, a few years after the first impressions of “Empyrean Realms” were put on YouTube (see here), the album is finally out and available to the masses, this time via the same label as the one VOMITRON is on: Metavania Music. This label is also the brainchild of ARMORY guitarist Joe Kurland.
“Empyrean Realms” contains 9 tracks, offering a playtime of almost an hour. It all begins with “Eternal Mind” that comes bursting in, building its way onward. Melody is kept going, while the Metal becomes more powerful once it’s time to break through. Straight-forward verses, firm they be, are sung by Adam’s clean and epic voice. Melody is a key ingredients, as shown in the bridge/pre-chorus and chorus itself, where the keyboards become a bit more prominent in combination with the guitar leads. The solo part is where turns and time are taken to present an eargasmic piece of music. Absolutely first class stuff, if I may say so. Also, the transition back to the verses and so on is done flawlessly. Excellent song to start with.
“Dreamstate” follows very rapidly with uptempo Power Metal and again the typical and tasty leadwork. Power and drive, combined with the epic vocals create a wonderful cohesion. Also nice to hear are the melodic keyboard touches. The chorus is perhaps the best part of the song: beautiful and touching somehow. It’s melodic, sounds epic, consists of great music. And just listen to those vocals! Staggering! The solo moment is again split between guitar and keyboards, backed by a midtempo rhythm. There are some grand moments, too, giving the song a Sci-Fi feel. All falls back to a bridge where vocals and piano reign, after which it’s back to Power Metal business. Fantastic song!
A dark touch in the beginning of “Beyond The Horizon” leads to solemn Heavy Metal with melodic, backing keyboards. The verses are (again) straight-forward, but have adapted vocals. The whole sounds more simple, yet remains catchy and easy to listen to. It’s comparable to IRON MAIDEN. But luckily the drums now offer more variety. Solo parts (in which you’ll find uptempo Power Metal with drive!) and sung bridges take turns to appear, then leading back to the chorus. Leadwork remains key, especially in the last part to finish it all off. And even when taking a lighter approach, ARMORY still delivers the goods.
Keyboards start “Reflection Divine”, creating a Sci-Fi setting. Will it result in fast Power Metal? Oh yes, very much yes! And again, so damn delicious! Adam singing from the bottom of his lungs, being – judging by this/these song(s) – a very underestimated vocalist. Melody is again of utmost importance, and keyboards deliver what it needed. The epic, melodic chorus also has a touch of IRON MAIDEN. The solos are the finishing touch. To give Adam a break, this next song is fully instrumental: “Horologium”. It begins with an epic and bombastic intro, and when having taken off I had to think a bit of VOMITRON, who put out “No NES For The Wicked” in 2011 (see my review here). The focus lies of course on the guitar, but the keyboards are also given a large role to play.
Time to get cracking again, and so “Elements Of Creation” kicks in instantly with firm, melodic Power Metal, led onwards by the keyboards. The verses are, this time, slower and more Metal., but melody is not that far away. Mainly the hymnic chorus is where it resides. The Sci-Fi influences in this song are stronger than before, and it’s nice to hear those backing vocals that come in now and then. A powerful, pounding bridge (with vocals) leads into the solo part. Here the bass comes through a bit more, and that’s positive. The solos themselves reminded me of (old) STEEL ATTACK (“Where Mankind Fails” era, 1997).
“Inner Sanctum” brings back the 1980s, especially the keyboard sound, and the solos later on. A building intro is followed by midtempo Power Metal. Here the band sounds more relaxed compared to previous outbursts. The music reminded me of old FATES WARNING, QUEENSRYCHE, and so on. Of course again with a catchy chorus, and lots of attention to melody. And this brings us back something stronger: “Fate Seeker”. This song offers power and drive! Lyrically it’s based on the “Elric Saga” by Michael Moorcock. I have yet to read (any of) those books, but hope to do so at some point in the (near?) future. A firm transition takes place after the intro, focussing on rhythm. Solemn, hymnic verses are sung with high-pitched vocals. Melody comes more to the front in the pre-chorus, into a galloping twist and into the catchy chorus, where everything is set on full power! There are solos as well, but the keyboards now are limited to providing backing sounds. The firm transition of before returns hereafter, paving the way for a second solo round, in which there is room for an acoustic intervention. This is a very good idea, as it gives more depth to the music. After that it’s business as usual. At the end, all fades out through crazy keyboard/organ sounds.
Last but certainly not least: “Quest For The Fleece” (about the Greek myth of “Jason
and the Argonauts”, of which also a movie was made in 1963 – see here), which clocks off at 7 minutes. Keyboards again commence the track, in an atmospheric way. Strange as it may sound, but it reminded me of one of Whitney Houston’s hits. And no, I’m not that familiar with her discography that I can say which song it was. Luckily the Metal takes over soon enough, obviously with a focus on leads. Guitar input increases in the bridge and all power and melody is unleashed in the chorus, where the singing sounds quite hymnic. A firm, rhythmic bridge splits the solo parts. The piano makes a final return by adding some playful accents and leading the song to its end. Or in short: this song is a great soundtrack to a non-existing movie.
It’s been six years since “The Dawn Of Enlightenment”, but it has been worth the wait. ARMORY took their time to perfect the songs, to make it all killer, no filler, and they very much succeeded in this. You could even say they surpassed themselves. On all levels: production, musicianship, compositions, leads/melodies (truly masterful what is delivered on “Empyrean Realms”), and of course the amazing vocals of Adam Kurland. All these elements define ARMORY and the music they make. With “Empyrean Realms” the band has put out one of the best albums in this genre. Not only anno 2013, but of the past years as well. Heavily recommended for any fan of melodic (Power) Metal!
- Eternal Mind
- Beyond The Horizon
- Reflection Divine
- Elements Of Creation
- Inner Sanctum
- Fate Seeker
- Quest For The Fleece
Adam Kurland – vocals
Joe Kurland – guitars, drums
Chad Fisher – guitars
Peter Rutcho – keyboards
Thomas Preziosi – bass
Tom Vieira – drums (live)