02. Forced By Fate
03. Save You
04. Waiting For The Dawn
05. Ballad Of The Queen
06. Funeral Song
08. Gates Of War
10. Night On The World
11. All Of Us
13. The Final Act
Coming back from a nine-year gap in releasing albums with a semi-revamped line-up is tough enough, but it seems that power metallers Heimdall have bitten off a little more than they can chew. While the Italian group are no strangers to adapting legends and mythology (the band’s name itself refers to a Norse god), their attempt to convert Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid into a metal concept album leaves much to be desired, and not just lyrically. Anybody with a more-than-casual knowledge of power metal can pick out the flair of countrymen Rhapsody Of Fire, the gallop of Symphony X and more than a brief nod to Kamelot within Aeneid‘s 13 tracks.
As befits a movie soundtrack, the album commences with a spoken-word prologue, setting the scene of the tragedy and presumably introducing the new vocalist Gandalf Ferro in narration mode, before the album proper kicks into power/thrash mode with “Forced By Fate”. The band are quick to inject a catchy chorus with overly emotive singing and plenty a guitar lick, along with prominent symphonic and piano elements. Everything on this track sounds a little claustrophobic and overlapping, but that is resolved on “Save You”, a much stronger track that enables each instrument to breathe, even allowing for a Malmsteen-styled solo in the midst.
Unfortunately, the album takes quite a dip from there: “Ballad Of The Queen” is a pleasant but aimless wander along acoustic guitars and orchestration. One would expect a guest female vocalist to take the lead here, but alas the nasal range of Ferro remains center-stage, while dramatic irony lies in the presence of a female backing singer. The dip deepens, with the 1-minute-30 cinematic “Funeral Song” interlude that follows feeling superfluous. “Underworld” then jolts the listener back to familiar turf with a keyboard-drenched yet grooving chorus that evokes latter-era Iced Earth with the gang choir vocals, while “Gates Of War” impresses with its use of banjo and violin in a hard rock context. The rest of the album passes delectably, with merits due to “Hero” and “Night On The World”. The final orchestral-metal number “The Last Act” is a safe way to conclude the album but lacking that elusive ‘epic’ factor, and instead fades slowly into piano and keyboards.
When taking this album for what it is – an Italian power-metal romp – Heimdall deliver on all the expected factors: well-executed musicianship, impressive solos, and the appropriate level of cheese drizzled. Once the band hit their stride, they excel; Heimdall have a knack for choruses in particular (see “Save You”), and the occasional fist-pumping moment crops up as well. Infectious enthusiasm abounds, and it’s not difficult to imagine the songs translated onto the stage, particularly with a passionate fanbase behind them.
That said, there is still a sizable amount of room for improvement: even the higher-quality tracks are not without their flaws. “Save You” and “Hero” feature sections that sound directly lifted from Kamelot’s “Farewell” and “Center Of The Universe” respectively. In addition, the band’s love of interludes invades the first minute of “Gates Of War”, as well as another piano-led interlude before “The Last Act”, breaking up any continuity or momentum while adding little to the overall effect. Finally, possibly the most irksome error in Aeneid, is that the ‘concept’ part of this concept album is sorely lacking: at no point can I discern links to the poem, and that is not due to Ferro’s Italian accent. Perhaps the lyric sheets in front of me would facilitate the process, but aurally the snatches I catch sound fairly generic; “Save you beyond the dark of this night, save you beyond this life”, for instance.
All things considered, Heimdall have created an enjoyable fifty-minute slab of bright and cheery power metal which will no doubt please addicts of the genre. If you can ignore the flaws, Aeneid is a worthy release of the band’s catalog, although whether it is worthy of Virgil’s is more questionable.