Album of the Week 48-2016: Metalium – As One

On the surface, Metalium is another typical German power metal band. They have the rolling double bass drums, the uptempo songs and the anthemic choruses. They have a couple of assets that set them apart from that saturated field though. One of them is the excellent singer Henning Basse, but they also often leaned a bit toward the more aggressive American side of the genre. And while many of their albums have been plagued by consistency or production issues – or both – they have released a couple of excellent records, the fourth chapter in their ongoing saga – ‘As One’ – likely being the strongest.

Sonically, ‘As One’ is a major improvement over its predecessor ‘Hero Nation’, which was almost unlistenably poorly produced. Both the rhythm guitars and the drums have a nice punch here, but the band also seems to have learned a lesson or two about songwriting in the two years between the records. While the songs are still relatively simple in structure, the attention span is significantly increased by slight adaptions to the tension build-up. For instance, ‘Illuminated’, the doom metal song they spent the rest of their career trying to outdo, is over twelve minutes with its prologue and epilogue, but manages to stay interesting.

As many bands in their genre, however, Metalium’s strength is in their uptempo material. Especially the opening salvo of the borderline thrasher ‘Warrior’ and the highly dynamic ‘Pain Crawls In The Night’ is an excellent representation of the skills of both drummer Michael Ehré and guitarist Matthias Lange, who never gets too flashy, but does have his share of  strong leads. Ehré goes nuts in ‘Goddess Of Love And Pain’, one of the album’s highlights in its pleasantly chaotic unpredictability. ‘No One Will Save You’ and its hardrock-infused eighties Euro metal vibe is another high water mark.

Less successful are the dull midtempo plodder ‘Find Out’ and the title track, which is ruined by a godawfully annoying chorus that happens to return too many times throughout the song. However, Basse’s spirited performance almost manages to save even those songs; while he had yet to find the powerful grit that he has these days, it’s more than obvious that we’re dealing with more than just anonymous power metal singer number umpteen here. It feels like he’s pushing towards the edge of his range at some points, but never does he go overboard and he nails every note.

Many fans seem to think that every Metalium album is a little less good than the one that came before. And although the debut is a thoroughly enjoyable power metal effort, the band reaches its apex compositionally and productionally with ‘As One’ and its following chapter ‘Demons Of Insanity’, which has slightly better highlights, but also a few more skipworthy moments. This may be textbook power metal, but at least more thought went into it than the mindless Priest-aping that many turn of the century German power metal bands resorted to. This is sheer power metal euphoria, plain and simple.

Recommended tracks: ‘Goddess Of Love And Pain’, ‘Pain Crawls In The Night’, ‘Warrior’

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