Another melodic power metal album? Well, if you actually think about it, the genre isn’t as overcrowded as it was in the early 2000s anymore. Most people still feel the overkill from back then, but actually most bands don’t dare to go bluntly melodic power metal anymore. Instead they feel the need to add some pseudo-sophisticated progressive elements for the sake of it where it makes no musical sense.
Sweden’s Kardinal Sin are a refreshing relief from the forced sounding European power metal releases of late as they make no compromises with their easy-going melodic metal. Their debut album Victorious is anything but, even though merchandised as such. The band actually formed in 2005 as Rough Diamond and went through a name change in 2014, thus Kardinal Sin arose. Moreover, Victorious was released in 2017 already digital-only (and in Sweden), with Massacre Records grabbing the band this year and giving the album a physical treatment as well.
As you may know, I have a soft spot for European power metal and as such Kardinal Sin convinced me quickly with the cheesy opening track “Patria (Fatherland)”. High-speed, double bass driven melodic metal with an immaculate, catchy power chorus? Sign me the fuck up! To be honest, at first glance I rolled my eyes a lot going through the album; each track is cheesy, melodramatic and lofty as we are used to from last decade’s pathos-laden melodic metal. Fortunately after a few more spins the melodies really cling to your memory as you expect from the genre and the eye-rolling is replaced with genuine delight about the catchy melodies and happy-go-lucky attitude.
Many would stop reading now, and they would be right to do so. Kardinal Sin is a pleasure exclusive to melodic power metal fans. Anyone who can’t enjoy Rhapsody‘s dragons, can’t forgive Blind Guardian‘s ventures to middle-earth and does not enjoy a jester laughing into their face for an hour straight ought to disregard this release completely. No-holds-barred tacky melodic metal is a very singular interest, and not many will be enlightened by Kardinal Sin‘s debut.
Next to the repetitive, uninventive and generic songwriting Victorious suffers from a terrible production. For some reason, Kardinal Sin thought this album deserved an AOR production. Listening to Victorious, it feels like Journey trying their hand at power metal. The guitars are washed out and lacking any sort of punch, the supposed-to-be epic choir parts are devoid of any impact due to the tender mixing and everything sounds incredibly softened. Guys, this is power metal. Does this album have any guitars at all apart from the obvious guitar leads? Those might as well be keyboards. This is a terrible offense and has me enjoy the album way less than I could. POWER metal. Nope.
As I said, Victorious is an uncompromising recording of the most melodious of metal genres and as such a delight to true afficionados and a nightmare for everyone else. The songwriting is generic and miles away from Gamma Ray, Helloween or the one obvious role model for Kardinal Sin, Edguy. Still the melodies and grand choruses manage to captivate the listener start to finish on this easy listening melodic metal album. Don’t expect any masterpieces from this album, but as a devotee you will find yourself at least temporarily entertained. Disregard the tacky ballad “For The Heroes” please, one of the worst I have heard in a long time.