Sunday, July 30, 2017

Excalion – Dream Alive

It’s been a long wait for fans of Finnish power metal group Excalion. “Dream Alive” is the band’s first record in 7 years, following the excellent “High Time”. There has been some turnover since then, with the band’s longtime singer departing and a new vocalist joining a couple years ago. Naturally, the question is whether or not he can stand up to the old singer. Obviously, he isn’t identical, but his performance here really doesn’t sound significantly different from the band’s last vocalist. He has an incredibly thick accent that is immediately noticeable. A lot of syllables seem to be pronounced in similar ways to the last singer, so unless you’re a mega-fan of the band, it’s likely that this change won’t be too jarring. And even if you are, the new singer does just as good of a job as the band’s old singer. On some occasions, he enters another stratosphere with incredibly animated screams towards the end of certain songs (“Centenarian” being the best example).

Musically, Excalion hasn’t changed a bit either. They’re still among the happiest power metal bands not named Power Quest or Freedom Call. They often achieve this via bouncy rhythms, and powerful, explosive choruses. The keyboards remain very much in the forefront of the band’s music, often being used for the main melody of each song (with the guitars playing support power chords). To Excalion’s credit, their bass player makes a notable impact on this record with all sorts of exciting fills, particularly in some of the quieter moments. The band is still exceptional at writing compelling slower or mid-paced songs. One such highlight is “Marching Masquerade”, which quite literally marches as it builds momentum to the chorus. 

Because “Dream Alive” is musically faithful to its predecessor, one would think it should be every bit as enjoyable. Truthfully, this album is going to get far less spins than “High Time”. In part, this is due to the excessive runtime; at nearly an hour, it is 12 minutes longer than the band’s prior release. But it also has somewhat weaker songwriting chops. There is no shortage of sugary sweet melodies on this record, but the number that will stay with you is limited. By the time you’re four or five tracks in, it feels as though you’ve heard it all. Even the 11-minute closer, "Portrait On The Wall" doesn't do anything particularly unique. Ultimately, there’s no reason that a fan of Excalion would dislike this album, but as a fan, its playtime will be admittedly quite limited.

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"Divergent Falling"
"Marching Masquerade"

Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%. 

Written by Scott

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