[21st January 2014]
[Inner Wounds Records]
01. One Lifetime
03. The Fiction Maze
04. Deep In The Dark
06. Son Of Sodom
07. Sent To The Grave
09. Dagon Rising
10. Worlds Collide
11. Falling Faster
12. Aftermath (Bonus track)
Power metal is sometimes quite the dirty phrase in metal these days. You conjure up images of shirtless men, with voices that sound like their testicles are caught in a vice, and melodies that make a 4-cheese pizza taste bland.
But there has been another trend happening, and that is the re-injection of actual power back in to power metal. The German and North American scenes have always been like this, but it is happening more and more outside those regions.
Enter Persuader. The Swedish band have released their fourth studio album, The Fiction Maze, on Inner Wound Recordings, and it more than puts the ‘power’ in ‘power metal’. Imagine if Sodom fucked Blind Guardian; The Fiction Maze would be the raucous, Swedish-born child of that union. It is aggressive, heavy as fuck, and vocalist Jens Carlsson sounds almost exactly like the legendary Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch. His power and melodic command are eerily similar, quite noticeably on the song “Deep in the Dark”, and it fucking rules (confession; Hansi is my favourite vocalist of all time. I do not make this comparison lightly). He also uses growls in his arsenal, to excellent and powerful effect such as on the mighty “Son of Sodom”.
The guitar riffs are massive, and carry more swagger than the entire state of Texas; even the slower song, “Deep in the Dark” is fist-pumpingly amazing. Emil Norberg, Daniel Sunbom, and bassist Fredrik Hedström are really doing their jobs here. This is a truly German power metal album, except interpreted by Swedes. The band has a command of anthemic choruses and catchy metal hooks that is rarely ever seen in music anywhere; “Son of Sodom” has a chorus that is so gloriously mighty that the listener is utterly compelled to raise their fists to the sky as they sing along.
The drumming is also fantastic. Ranging from power metal rhythms to blast beats, and all tied together with lovely fills, Erfraim Juntunen is a monster on the skins. He beats those drums like he means business and one can tell he is really into the music. That is always vital, because if the drummer doesn’t feel it, a band’s music will fail to impress no matter how good the rest of them are. In power metal, it isn’t uncommon for a band to let the drummer fade in to the background, so it is good to see that Persuader taking the drumming seriously.
Production-wise, this album wrings every little bit of power it can out of the music. Every note comes through with wonderful clarity; the lead guitar solos cut through everything else, and the rhythm guitars have more weight to them than a fully grown hippopotamus. The Fiction Maze feels like the best power metal albums do, full and rich, with powerful melody, both from the vocals and the instruments.
The Fiction Maze came crashing in to the conversation of “best power metal album of the past few years” and will almost certainly take the title of “power metal album of 2014” barring a release from Blind Guardian themselves. It is jaw-droppingly melodic, shin-bashingly rifftastic, and eye-poppingly heavy. Carlsson’s voice is fantastic, sounding like if Hansi Kursch went in a darker rougher direction instead of the operatic one he did go in, and the production is superb. Songs such as “Son of Sodom”, “War” and “Heathen” showcase a band that have absolutely come into their own as songwriters. Hell, this even caught the attention of people who don’t like power metal. Persuader have truly broken out and made a masterpiece album, one that belongs with Nightfall In Middle Earth, Horror Show, Land of the Free, Art of War, Keeper of the Seven Keys, and other truly legendary power metal albums.
Best songs: “Son of Sodom”, “Falling Faster”, “War”, “The Fiction Maze”