As odd as it may sound starting a review with hopes and expectations, I must admit that I can’t help seeing CELESTI ALLIANCE as an exhilarating rising star of the heavy- and power metal scene that we’ll shortly see among the bigger names. The fresh Finnish melodic heavy metal quintet was formed in 2013 and grabbed the attention of the local metalheads with two 5-track EPs “Eagle’s Nest” (2015) and “Time To Rise” (2017). Their independent first full-length record, “Hybrid Generation” (out 29th November 2019) promises nothing but catchy melodies, lyrics influenced by sci-fi, personal struggles, and all the best heavy metal has to offer.
Although I’ve always been fond of the genre, lately it has been quite difficult for me to get excited over heavy metal releases. I never missed any album by the great idols of my childhood, but discovering new bands of this particular style became almost impossible, I generally started to feel that the genre somehow became tired, no matter how enjoyable the new music was. So CELESTI ALLIANCE naturally didn’t reach me with their first two EPs, two records which I’ve quickly had to get my hands on after hearing the debut album. Oh, that debut album! What these EPs may lack in quality, the album delivers on a higher level. Listening to it certainly took me to a ride back in time – a much-needed trip that served as a wake-up call to take me back to the world of heavy metal.
With an unmistakable Finnish sound, the album’s most intense songs holds tunes that surely won’t let you sleep for a couple of good nights and can easily be stuck in your head. Starting with “Celestial Law”, a keyboard-driven fast song that may sound like an archetype of the genre, but it’s an image defining one for CELESTI ALLIANCE, and I can easily see this becoming an “anthem” of the band, a mandatory segment of all future setlists. “Fierce and Free” steadily amplifies the energies unleashed by the opener, beginning with neck-mover riffs and memorable guitar melodies, culminating with a refrain that pretty much makes you feel, well, fierce and free – another instant favorite ticked on the list. The first video clip of the album was shot for the likewise fast-paced “Broken Memories”, that somehow reminds me of the darkest songs of HELLOWEEN, especially with singer Valtteri Heiskanen‘s vocals sounding akin to Andi Deris’ this time. Electronic sounds set the mood with keyboard melodies that blend into the wall of guitars at the beginning of “Incomplete”, and again with a robust sing-along chorus with the same anthemic feeling that “Fierce and Free” provided, but with a gloomier twist this time.
Having a ballad on the album is a requirement I guess, “Solitude” fills the spot this time, although this is the part where I felt for the first time that there is room for improvement. Don’t get me wrong, I love ballads, and not like there’s anything to dislike here, it’s rather about the absence of emotions that this one should bring out from me. The slowest paced track still offers a solid chorus and a memorable guitar solo, so it will probably grow on me later; it already sounds better by the time I’ve finished this sentence and listened to it at least four times.
The middle ground between the aforementioned ballad and the fast headbanger tracks come in the form of three mid-tempo songs, with “Shadow Children” being the peak for me with haunting keyboards in the background and atmospheric vocals leading the song. “Louder Power” continues in the same vein but overall doing less impact, making it more forgettable. The recording concludes with the monumental 10-minute long title song, “Hybrid Generation”, making it a less radio-friendly composition, but a perfect closure to the album, summarizing everything you can hear in the previous songs: fast-paced riffs, shrieking screams, and melodic verses, synths, and epic atmosphere.
Lead vocalist Valtteri Heiskanen’s dynamic and melodic tone does not lack the power needed behind such songs, and it is the main reason these tracks were able to grow on me very quickly. His main singing voice is quite similar to Timo Kotipelto’s of STRATOVARIUS, evoking memories in me of the finest days of the pioneers of this unique Finnish interpretation of heavy metal and sound. His vast range also goes from the deepest, almost growl-like notes up high to the Halford-esque screams – and it’s certainly an improvement over the previous EP and demo songs, where some of these elements were a bit weak or still immature.
I sincerely hope we’re witnessing the first steps here on a very long road, as this band has every chance now to become the next STRATOVARIUS, GAMMA RAY or HELLOWEEN. The album itself may be calculable – no bold steps are taken and nothing that you wouldn’t expect after the first song, but after all, the band themselves said this is an homage to their idols and they play the music they like listening to, and the surprise factor isn’t anything like a “must-have” for a strong sounding, solid metal album that “Hybrid Generation” unquestionably is. The perfect blend of keyboard and guitar melodies, catchy vocal lines, high-pitched screams, a unique voice and quality sound is quite enough for immersion and to show potential – and are all elements that the band can build on in the future. Speaking for myself, I can’t wait to be in the crowd, singing along with these songs live and to see where these musicians’ path leads.
01. Celestial Law
02. Fierce and Free
03. Shadow Children
04. Broken Memories
07. Louder Power
08. Hybrid Generation
Valtteri Heiskanen – Lead vocals
Tuukka Nurmi-Aro – Lead & Rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Kalle Pöyskö – Lead & Rhythm guitars
Iikka Luhtamäki – Bass guitar
Kim Keinonen – Drums & percussions