Armory - Empyrean Realms review

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Band: Armory
Album: Empyrean Realms
Release date: November 2013

01. Eternal Mind
02. Dreamstate
03. Beyond The Horizon
04. Reflection Divine
05. Horologium
06. Elements Of Creation
07. Inner Sanctum
08. Fate Seeker
09. Quest For The Fleece
10. Thundersteel [Riot cover] [Japanese bonus]
11. Where The Rain Grows [Helloween cover] [Japanese bonus]
12. Love Is Pain [Virgin Steele cover] [Japanese bonus]

Armory, the real outsiders in the 2013 Metal Storm Awards, show us how to actually do powerful prog power metal.

Personally, I didn't listen to Empyrean Realms when it first came out, since so many big names were currently on the table and the band's debut album, The Dawn Of Enlightenment, was all but outstanding. Therefore I listed Armory among the tons of mediocre power metal bands born in the early 2000s.

Only their being a nominee to the MSA's 2013 convinced me to finally give Empyrean Realms a chance, and to notice what a drastic improvement it has been since their 2007 album. The songwriting shows a stunning maturity, Kurland's vocals have become more educated too, and the instrumental parts aren't just wankery, which The Dawn Of Enlightenment suffered at times, but are more integrated in the tracks.

What instantly shines about this release is its consistency, both in the single tracks and in the whole album. Every instrument is, in fact, perfectly mixed and incorporated in the whole sound. While the album isn't made by relying on a pair of great tracks and then filling the blanks with clone songs (cough cough Iron Savior cough cough), but it rather keeps a steady level of quality in its whole running time. This last feature, the running time, has been another improvement if compared to the debut, since I'd pick anytime 50 minutes (covers excluded) of greatness over much more of "yeah, at least it's music"-ness.

In a time when power metal is bound to be immediate and almost trivial, following the leads of HammerFall, Edguy and such, Empyrean Realms is the manifesto of how this genre can be made with some more elaborateness. Like many good albums with huge prog influences, in fact, this release is what is commonly defined as a grower, since it doesn't put the keys to its success in catchy choruses or irresistible sing-alongs, but manages to leave a mark on the listener with foot-tapping rhythms and with the whole, unmistakable listening experience.

Captivating from the first to the last track, maybe Empyrean Realms doesn't create a whole new way of making music, and doesn't show this much variety, but puts the Armory soul on the prog power overused formulas, creating a mix able to attract fans of both genres.

The six years long gestation period since The Dawn Of Enlightenment has been necessary and fruitful, but now that the American guys have made themselves quite a name with this excellent sophomore album, let's hope we won't have to wait until 2019 to hear something new from Armory.

The whole album is also streaming on bandcamp; so don't just read this without clicking here.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 10


Written on 23.06.2014 by Hopefully you won't agree with me, diversity of opinions is what makes metal so beautiful and varied.

So... critics and advices absolutely welcome.


Comments: 3   Visited by: 71 users
24.06.2014 - 16:01
The Norseman
I didn't listen to their first album but I did this one because of the nomination for the MS awards and I agree with the review. It's one of the best of 2013 and a must listen to any power metal fan.
30.06.2014 - 23:00
Absolutely crushes the debut in terms of songwriting, production, performance... Hell, everything. SO happy they ditched the stale "Medieval knights and dragons" theme. I mean, they jumped to the 'ol "Sci-fi" theme, which is also completely overused these days, but face it: it's a way more interesting subject to take on lyrically and musically. Now I can say "Yeah, there's this absolutely kick-ass power metal band 1 state over from me".

Looking forward to hearing more from these guys.
01.07.2014 - 06:12
The consistency is what makes this album so enjoyable for me, you nailed it in the review. This one's a blast really.

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