Active readers of my reviews may notice that I really like to review debut albums. Whether they turn out excellent or mediocre, there is almost nothing that is quite as interesting as the very first album from a band. It is the first time to hear various musicians (whether well-known or just arriving onto the scene) melding their personalities and creative minds together to form what will hopefully be a unique, cohesive album.
Today, the debut album I am reviewing is Awakening the Hydra from the band Warrion (a cool, fantasy name that actually comes from a member’s name). The new band consists of Mike Vescera (vocals), Tim Thomas (lead guitar), Ron Ravi Warrion (guitar), Keith Knight (bass guitar), Dave Hermien Dufort (keyboards), and Rob Brug (drums). This album in particular also features two guests, George Call (vocals on Victim of Religion and Serpents Fire) and Chris Bennett (performing solos on Victim of Religion).
The album is very concise, at a length of 34 minutes. Due to the length, I will be eschewing my normal method of reviewing the entire song from beginning to end, and instead briefly touch on the strengths and weaknesses of each track.
Creations of the Mind opens the record with a symphonic intro, that, rather than being bombastic and loud, maintains a quiet, mysterious vibe that certainly piqued my interest on the first listen. The piano here is simplistic yet beautiful.
Awakening the Hydra jumps face first into the metal pit without hesitation. There are little guitar flourishes everywhere, bright harmonic vocals, and drums played at the speed of light. This is most definitely straight power metal, but the album makes no attempt to hide its roots. Interestingly, I am not referring to modern power metal, as this album is much more akin to 80s/90s metal. Mike Vescera’s vocals here are typical for power metal, with lots of high pitches being sung with wavy vibrato. It reminds me of Geoff Tate’s voice mixed with that of Bruce Dickinson to a degree. I think these will either make or break the album for many people, depending on their preferences, as the vocals, while not bad, do not do anything unique to break out of the “power metal norm,” so to speak.
Carnage is not nearly as fast-paced of a song as its name might suggest. Slowing down quite a bit, the instrumental parts sound much more unique here. However, the vocal melodies don’t do anything for me here. Again, they aren’t bad, they just aren’t overly memorable. A melodic guitar solo could have really spiced this track up. A solo-like section is teased at the very end, but simply fades out, leaving the listener hanging in suspense.
Adversary starts off with some clean guitar but quickly becomes metal again. The intro seems unnecessary and somewhat jarring on subsequent listens. The lyrics, vocal melodies, and harmonies are mostly good in this track. A guitar solo appears here to end the song, and while not mind-blowingly fast or technical, fits the vibe of the track quite well.
Invocation is an instrumental track, or more accurately, one long guitar solo, as it simply feels like it was cut from another song. It does add variety to the album, but it doesn’t have any particular detail that stands out. The other instruments sound bland, partially due to the lacking mix, and the solo itself sounds generic. It is worth listening to a couple times, but this will likely end up as a “skip” for many people.
Victim of Religion starts with a cool, bass driven riff that never lets up. This song contains everything that has been missing thus far. Melodic dueling guitars, audible bass, and vocals that (mostly) rock! The high screams don’t sound cheesy here, instead coming across as powerful and emotional, as they should considering the lyrical material. If the album was full of tracks that were as good as this, it would easily be a “must buy” record. The guest solo and vocals immensely add to this track.
Serpent’s Fire has a rather gloomy opening, with a slow, deep guitar riff. A brief solo acts as an interlude between the opening and the vocals. Unfortunately, the vocals do not fit well here. This is accentuated by the fact that Victim of Religion had such great vocals. It seems like the pitches are as high as possible for the sake of it, without a real melody to it. However, George Call’s guest vocals do add to the track. This is the first track of the album that, even considering its approximately five minute length, feels like it drags.
Savage contains yet another slower intro that picks up a bit of speed for the rest of the track. Some of the vocals sound out of place, but the lead vocals and harmonies sound great in the chorus singing, “Onward, forever.” The guitar solos lack emotion and feel slightly tacked on.
Lucifer My Guide has what will certainly be the most intriguing song title for many people. It contains a spoken intro. The section following has a good vocal melody, but the instruments sound like they are from a different song completely and simply don’t fit. The rest of the track has some great vocals that don’t reach for the sky just for the sake of it, contrasting with Serpent’s Fire. The lyrics are quite interesting here. The mix really should be better, as the heavy guitars and drums sound weak.
Earth Fire Water Spirit is a second instrumental track. This one consists of just acoustic guitar. It is quite beautiful, and the playing is perfect. It actually is quite sad, for two reasons. One is simply the obvious emotion conveyed in this well written piece of music. The second is because I know what could have been on the rest of the album in terms of songwriting and variety. This track, while extremely simplistic, is worth buying individually even for those not interested in the album as a whole, but keep in mind that it is short and contains no vocals, bass, drums, or distorted guitar.
Finally, the album ends with a reprise of the chorus from Awakening the Hydra, aptly titled Hydra Reprise. Personally, I think it was unnecessary, since I believe that to be one of the weaker songs of the album. However, the band obviously disagrees, considering that is the title of the album. I think the album would have benefited from having such a unique song as Earth Fire Water Spirit close out the album without this revisit to an early track.
Overall, this album certainly has its pros and cons. I quite like tracks like Victim of Religion and Earth Fire Water Spirit. Others such as Savage and Lucifer My Guide are still okay tracks. Even Creations of the Mind, while not necessarily a typical song, is excellent. However, I find it hard to defend songs such as Awakening the Hydra or Serpent’s Fire. The band obviously has the creative spark, which can be easily seen in some of the aforementioned tracks, but overall there is some improvement that can definitely be made for a second album. The mix needs serious improvement, however, as I could barely hear specific instruments at various times. I sincerely hope the band does continue and creates said second album, as I imagine that they have great potential due to their relatively unique (in 2013) classic power metal style.