Finnish Power Metal act EXCALION has been around since 2000, and is soon to release what will be their fifth album: “Emotions”, out on the 27th of this month. Their previous album, “Dream Alive”, dates from 2017, and was very well received after a hiatus which lasted for quite a few years. We thus had high hopes for this newest oeuvre, containing ten shiny new songs that we have the pleasure to prelisten for you.
The first thing that got me curious about this new album was the beautiful cover art by talented Polish artist Piotr Szafraniec. In the age of streaming and downloading, I am still like a child in a candy store when it comes to record shops. The art is stunning and would make this one stand out and catch my eye immediately. Now, does EXCALION live up to our high expectations? Well, you definitely get what you would expect from a top-notch Melodic Power Metal band with SONATA ARCTICA and STRATOVARIUS influences, and much, much more. With a title like “Emotions”, it is quite obvious that EXCALION will take us on a journey through joy, sorrow, anger, hate, etc. using Power Metal as a medium, and they do so very eloquently. Let me explain why I think EXCALION belongs in my list of current top Finnish Power Metal acts.
First of all, every track is a tiny masterpiece with many facets and unique qualities. “Trust” opens the album with a sense of bravure, showing off what EXCALION stands for, and the listener quickly realises they actually pull off conveying varying emotions and elaborate moods through their sound. In doing so, they also manage to stay true to their personal style, never losing sight of it by focusing too much on the lyrical themes at hand. This is, first and foremost, a Power Metal album, and so it remains until the very end. The journey continues with “Sunshine Path”, giving you some fingerlicking, uplifting keyboard action that will make the sun shine through the darkest of clouds. We go from happy-go-lucky to downright enraged with raw track “Lost Control”, nearly knocking the air out of my lungs with some heavy double-kick drum work and aggressive riffage.
Needless to say, we are only three tracks in and I am already in love with this album. By the fourth track, “Solitude”, one of the two ballads, EXCALION is truly on a roll. “Solitude” and “I Left My Heart At Home” are moving, but not less powerful. Marcus Lång uses every vocal trick up his sleeve – and he has many – to ensure the listener is pulled deeply into these powerballads. Moving on with “Nightmariner”, we are back on track again with wonderfully structured, vibrantly energetic Power Metal artistry. “The Golden Horde” pairs up with “Lost Control” as the heaviest tracks on “Emotions”, the piercing guitars and crushing bass work trying their best at vandalizing your eardrums. Next to last is “The Mercy Racers”, another great one to remind you of all the strengths EXCALION has displayed, as the band’s Power train rages on without ever derailing. They keep it up until the epic finisher, “Callsigns”, with the chorus fading out into strings and eventually peaceful raindrops, leaving you breathless until you press replay.
EXCALION is definitely more on point as a band than ever. Listening to earlier work, I feel like both original members (keyboardist Jarmo Myllyvirta and drummer Henri Pirkkalainen) seem to have set some clear goals to grow, and have really followed through. Which does not mean that they outshine the newer members. Frontman Marcus Lång not only nails every note, but has this raw raspiness to his voice that reminds me of Marco Hietala. Aleksi Hirvonen’s guitar solos are technically complex, sometimes joining Jarmo‘s sweeping keyboards in entertaining battles. In closing, let me just state the obvious: there is so much to be enjoyed on this record, so many great and small highlights to discover, that I simply cannot recommend “Emotions” enough.
- Sunshine Path
- Lost Control
- The Golden Horde
- I Left My Heart At Home
- The Mercy Racers
Marcus Lång – Vocals
Aleksi Hirvonen – Guitars
Jarmo Myllyvirta – Keyboards
Onni Hirvonen – Bass
Henri Pirkkalainen – Drums
Interview with messier — “There’s only three of us, so we have to make it count and get the sound as big as we can.”