I've heard some previous work by these guys, and while I certainly found them competent enough, I was never really all about it. It just had too much of a retro vibe, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd heard it all before. They were a band that I always really wanted to like, but never quite managed to. An also-ran, as it were.
Well, let me be very clear. That is absolutely not the case with this album. It rocks. Really, just totally blown away. Let's see why:
At first listen to Archeus, I think, 'Oh, it starts with an intro track.' About 45 seconds in, you realize that is not an ordinary throw-away intro. The guitars come in, with a nice mid tempo pounding drumbeat, and the whole thing turns into a listenable instrumental, that leaves before overstaying its' welcome. Technically, not quite instrumental; there's some background 'ooooohing' for atmosphere.
Bestial Triumphans comes charging out of the gate immediately after that, with opening shrieks and, excuse my lack of guitar knowledge, but some notably twirly guitar work. It takes off at breakneck speed, and keeps going. Slows down for a couple of bridges, but that's just to lull you into a false sense of security before it takes off again. That's all dandy, but it is to be expected of a band doing what Holy Grail is doing. They also switch things up some with a little bit of growling, and a few distinctly breakdown-y moments. I know, every trve metalhead is supposed to hate breakdowns, but these guys make it work. They (the breakdowns) show up, do what they came to do, then leave again before you can start to get upset. It all makes for an interesting, slightly eclectic opener.
From there, we get some nice traditional/power metal tracks up through the title song. Then, just when it starts to run the risk of becoming boring, Too Decayed to Wait changes things to a more punk rock/thrash approach, a bit like Anthrax, but with frilly guitarwork. Crosswinds continues in this vein, and brings back a few growled vocals. Crosswinds also has the dubious honor of having some vocal parts that made me laugh, as they sounded quite a bit like MC Chris. Take it to the Grave is another drving, thrashy number, with more excellent soloing, and another mini-breakdown.
Sleep of Virtue moves back into trad-metal territory. The guitar work during this track is kind of Painkiller-y, but it sounds more classic than old. The intro and some of the bridges have a 90's alt-rock vibe, and there's one that clearly has some grunge influence. Silence the Scream follows up, and much as I tried to avoid this comparison, its' structure has melodeath all over it. It's just overlaid with flashy power guitars and high pitched wailing. The Great Artifice continues in the same vein, and verges onto core territory. It could be obnoxious, and if you only like traditional heavy metal and power metal, it probably is. Personally, I like that they've not just stuck with one style throughout.
Wake Me When It's Over is a short interlude. Not sure what else to say about it. It kind of serves to change the mood for the final track, Rains of Sorrow. Rains of Sorrow is... different. I guess it would be the obligatory 1 ballad per album. It's not super ballad-y, and it seems like these guys are having to try really hard to write something in this tempo. In fact, it tries to run away about 3 minutes in, before they grab on and slow it back down. All in all, it's a decent closer, ending things on a relatively calm note, though it certainly isn't a standout track.
Overall, this album gets 4.5 stars, with the .5 getting rounded down this time. It is great deal of fun, and doesn't get tied down into generic speedy power metal. The only issue is that it runs perhaps a hair too long. However, in interest of full disclosure, I read the AMG review of the album before I heard it, and that was their big complaint. It may be that I'm subconsciously unable to shake that impression, and that I wouldn't notice it if I hadn't read that first. But, I wouldn't have gotten the album if I hadn't read it, so it is what it is. This one is well worth the money; at the time of this writing, the physical version is only 8 bucks.