Monday, April 11, 2016

Album Review: Dynazty - Titanic Mass

There are two main strands of power metal these days. You have the traditionalists, who faithfully adhere to the formula that Helloween created way back when, continuing to write endless repetitions of the old songs. It's a sound that is successful, but also stagnant. Then there is a strain of power metal that was once again created by Helloween, but on their red-headed stepchild of an album, "The Dark Ride". That album ushered in the age of modern power metal, where some bands tried to mesh the heavy, mechanical riffing of melodic death metal with the sugary choruses we're addicted to. It's a formula that Bloodbound nailed to perfection on "Tabula Rasa", and James Labrie's recent solo albums have utilized to great effect. But, it can also be a disaster in the waiting. Just ask Human Fortress and Hammerfall.

Dynazty is now firmly in the camp of bands who are modernizing power metal. Their previous album was well-received for it's tight take on the form, and this new album is proposing to take things even further in that direction. Over the course of these eleven tracks, Dynazty polishes their sound until it gleams in the sunlight.

"The Human Paradox" opens the album with galloping guitars that cut with the signature tone you would hear on a Soilwork album. The verses are almost perfunctory, a way to segue from that riff to the chorus. That's where we get to hear what this album is all about; big, hooky choruses that might cross the line too far into pop for a lot of metal fans. The one thing you can't deny is that these are catchy songs that do exactly what they set out to achieve.

Unlike the colossal mistake Hammerfall made, Dynazty never sounds like a band trying to cling to a trend. Their heavy, thrashy guitars are an integral part of who they are now. You can't fake that kind of identity for an entire album, not without letting on that you have to push yourself to write and play that kind of music. If you're familiar with the albums I mentioned earlier, they will give you an insight into what this album sounds like more than any words I can write. It's a very particular sound, one that I absolutely love when it's done well. I've often written that this is what the future of metal should sound like, as opposed to the myriad ways metal has started to become synonymous with growled, shrieked vocals.

The downside to "Titanic Mass" is that for as good as these songs are, and believe me they're good, there is a degree of sameness that creeps in. It doesn't take very long into the album before the non-stop rhythms of the guitars start to fold in on themselves like a black hole, making it a feat of attention to remember which song you're still listening to. That doesn't take anything away from how enjoyable the record is when you're listening, but it does start to creep in when you go back to think about which your favorite songs were.

The two exceptions are the title track, which is memorable for it's lack of a chorus befitting the rest of the album, and "I Want To Live Forever", which uses a slower pace to break up the album and serve as a focal point. It's not a ballad, but by taking a foot off the gas, it gives the album a needed change of pace, because the stretches of songs on either side of it are cut from the same cloth. It's an attractive cloth, however. I'm not sure how you can listen to "Roar Of The Underdog" and not want to bang your head and sing along. Dynazty has the singer and the melodic chops to pull this off, and they do it well. The writing in almost uniformly on point, and those choruses are the kind of stuff plenty of bands would rip off, if they had the talent to do so.

Overall, there's not much to be said critically of "Titanic Mass". It's a sharp, focused album that doesn't waste any of its time, and delivers songs that are both heavy and hooky, which is hard to pull off. While I wouldn't put it up with "Tabula Rasa" and "Impermanent Resonance" to form a holy trinity of modern power metal, it's not too far behind. "Titanic Mass" is a thoroughly enjoyable record, and one that even people who hate power metal should give a chance. If all power metal sounded like this, it wouldn't have such a bad reputation.

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