There is a strange and curious pattern I’ve noticed while writing my reviews for Lady Obscure Music Magazine. Whenever I pick a pure symphonic power metal album with old good double bass and pompous melodies from my inbox, there is a fair chance it’s written and performed by an Italian band. I’m not sure if the reason for this is some remarkable fascination with power metal in this country, or maybe the whole Italian metal scene grew much larger and it’s like that in every genre. Or more likely, this has something to do with my luck, in a good way of course, because every time I occasionally come across any Italian power metal band previously unknown to me, their work is ranging from at least average to excellent. Sometimes those albums are breaking the new grounds and sometimes they follow the well-known and tried formulas along the years; usually it doesn’t even matter, for almost all of them are somehow appealing to me. Kaledon eighth studio album, loftily entitled Antillius: The King of the Light is among the latter category; it pretty much keeps to the beaten track and doesn’t offer a lot of innovative things. But there is no such thing as too much decent power metal, right?
Discovery of Kaledon was a hell of surprise for me, because the band was formed back in 1998, sixteen years ago, put out seven studio albums not counting this one, and I can’t remember if I even heard anything about these guys before. I mean, I probably heard the name, but that’s about it. Now that this flaw in my knowledge of power metal scene is fixed, I can safely observe the band underwent quite a few lineup changes, especially in drums department; Massimiliano Santori, the current Kaledon’s drummer, has only joined the band recently. However, the band’s three founders have been going strong for all these years, which surely played an immense role in band’s consistency. I’m talking about Alex Mele (lead guitars, backing vocals), Tommy Nemesio (rhythm guitars) and Paolo Lezziroli (bass, backing vocals). Vocals on the new record are provided by Marco Palazzi, and the last but definitely not least, keyboards are played by Paolo Campitelli.
Antillius: The King of the Light continues the story started in the band’s previous work, Altor: The King’s Blacksmith. The concept is available on Kaledon official website, so I won’t be going into details here, but concentrate on music itself instead. The album is full of rapidly paced songs, supported by sweeping keyboard and guitar passages, and of course double bass, but there are also ballads, guitar riffs and clean solos; few progressive elements are hidden along the way, and the record is expectedly wrapped up with epic. The songs are mostly bombastic and grandiloquent, yet the mood varies from uplifting to more ominous.
The short obligatory intro, In Aeternum, quickly flies by and the first real song on Antillius, called The Calm Before The Storm starts blasting through the headphones. In fact, it’s nothing like calm, at least musically; jumpy verses are joined by swift choruses, quick guitar and keyboard solos are present, all squeezed tightly in four minutes of music. Most songs here are around six minutes, the next track being a perfect example. Friends Will Be Enemies is considerably darker than its predecessor; this change of mood is mostly accomplished by more aggressive vocals. The band goes at full speed here, making the track incredibly vigorous and energetic. These three tracks can serve as a fine opening sequence at live shows, building the energy among the crowd just the right way.
Now we probably need a breather, and sure enough, Elisabeth, the record’s ballad, comes next. Unexpected poppy elements pop up in this one, and the song feels too sugary, almost like a cut from a soundtrack from some overly sweet movie about love and happiness. Slick guitar sounds in the beginning, inclusion of female vocal parts and the melodies themselves make this composition sound weird among all the hectic tunes on Antillius. New Glory For The Kingdom returns to the familiar powerful sound with a touch of epicness in this crazy flash-like ride, and The Party holds on to this trend, offering a merry tune with joyous, cheerful vibe all over it, living up to its title. The song conveys the air of celebration to the hilt, and the instrumental section is reminiscent of the whole hall dancing and partying.
However, there bound to be some awful stuff happening when everyone is in delight, and the tense orchestrations with crushing riff The Evil Conquest starts with are lively representing it. Despite the song’s name, of which I can only say «The Evil Conquest? Really?», this piece might just be the best song on Antillius. The convincing intro is followed by the usual double bass stuff, this time with the haunting keyboard sounds up until the middle point, where the song suddenly switches from all-out approach to captivating soloing for like two minutes. This transition caught me off guard alright, but in retrospect I should’ve expected something like that. After all, an hour of straightforward rockers would be a boring experience. Light After Darkness drops the quality slightly; it’s a bit plodding first but then picks up the momentum, featuring a space-like keyboard solo and a sing-along section, which may outstandingly work in a live setting. Still, I think it could be shortened, seven minutes length seems excessive for a piece like this.
The Angry Vengeance starts angry indeed with chugging guitar, but then descends to the standard verse – pompous, exalted chorus – verse – chorus structure; the only thing worth a special mention here is a quiet, gentle bridge. Alas, it flows into another flashy solo section, instead of being built up into something more authentic, see: My Will. Now that’s a refreshing tune in this overwhelming sea of ultra fast power metal. The tempo is just right, not snail’s pace and not the breakneck speed; fresh acoustic opening, legitimate amount of heaviness and just flatulent enough. Another candidate for the most well-written track on Antillius.
Despite all the disadvantages, the record finishes on a high note with The Fallen King. Just over nine minutes in length, this tune takes its time to unfold and benefits from it greatly; elaborate instrumental passages in the beginning positively influence the song’s setting. Vocals don’t enter until the 2:30 mark and when they do, they’re fittingly mournful. The rapid parts are diluted with more leveled ones, thus forming the appropriate balance and the whole piece appears to be enthralling, not tiresome. A wonderful acoustic outro in the end makes you forgive all the negative aspects of the record at the moment and meditate on the Antillius high points.
Overall, I’ve found Antillius: The King of the Light an enjoyable listen, but it probably won’t have much lasting power for me. The main reason for that is the striking sameness of a number songs, in structure and in sound alike. The first few tracks are intense and that’s quite welcome, but when the same thing occurs again and again, it’s eventually becoming a bit stale. Everything should be exploited within reasonable limits, and I think on this record these limits are exceeded just a little. However, the tracks like The Evil Conquest, My Will and The Fallen King are more than capable capturing listener’s attention, and therefore the album doesn’t feel monotonous. The first listen may not yield these results, but the next consequent spins haven’t left me as excited as I was before. I would say, fans of Kaledon should definitely check this out (well, obviously), fans of power metal in general will find a lot of attractive aspects in this one too; for people unfamiliar with genre I would suggest to approach this warily.