Per Fredrik Åsly, better known under his stage/youtube name Pellek, has been around in the world of power metal for quite a few years now, having amassed most of his fame on youtube with metal covers of pop songs, anime openings and his own renditions of metal tracks. His enormous fanbase both allowed and saw him release a bunch of solo albums, starting with Bag Of Tricks in 2012 to this year’s Absolute Steel, the latter crowdfunded and self-produced. With all of this as well as his involvement in several other bands like Damnation Angels, Qantice, Dragonforce and Reinxeed, Pellek has proved his merits and love for power metal and music overall.
2016’s A Marvelous Method Of Reclusion had Pellek go progressive paths, before a rather unknown side of his. While there had always been prog influences in Pellek‘s albums, it was more of a Kamelot style power/prog mix; A Marvelous Method on the other hand really took it to the height of complex arrangements. This was not my cup of tea, even though Pellek‘s vocals were supreme as always. As such, I was eagerly awaiting Absolute Steel to figure if Pellek wants to challenge recent Angra releases or return to his roots.
Okay, it’s the age of the internet and you probably already listened to the two tracks released at the point of this review, “Darker Than Black” and “Absolute Steel”. Those are as straight forward power metal as they come, and the same is true for the remaining six songs of Absolute Steel. Opening the album with “Darker Than Black”, the road Absolute Steel goes is clear: catchy, momentous, dramatic and melodious power metal intersecting Kamelot, Rhapsody, Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica (each of them in their respective good times).
That’s big praise which the album tries hard to follow up on. And mostly, it succeeds. Even though only 33 minutes short, the album’s tracks each offer an individual experience adding their own ideas and styles. From “Live And Let Live”, which mixes classic European power metal with modern influences to the anthemic “Above The Clouds” to high speed hymn “Rebirth” and the ending track “So Long And Thanks For All The Winchimes” which sees a Kamelot style verse going into a sweet, rewarding chorus, all of the tracks provide their own identity while adding to a homogenous album sound.
The album’s highlight is the crazy high energy (or NRG, to say it in italo/japanese Eurobeat words) “Absolute Steel”, which clearly lends its addictive melodies and fun attitude from anime openings, which Pellek well studied for years now.
Absolute Steel‘s downsides? None, really; each track is interesting in its own right. Personally, “You Will Be A Star” is a rather dull song compared to the other ones, but the chorus makes up for it. This one feels like a remnant from the last album. In the same vein, “Future Soldier”s chorus is a bit too basic in contrast to the other compositions, but overall even those seemingly mediocre tracks are high class power metal, only paling compared to the album’s even greater tracks.
My only real criticism and slight disappointment stems from the album’s short playtime, only 33 minutes! I remember times when bands called this an EP. I guess it’s a good sign that I want more, but it’s definitely a bit sad to have the album be over this quickly. The “upside” is there’s no fillers watering down the experience.
Overall, Absolute Steel is a great power metal composition which will bring joy to everyone who loves melodic power metal, and Pellek does well with adding modern sounds and prog influences to the mix to keep the sound fresh. The sound mixing is absolutely flawless as well, with just the right amount of compression to have the orchestral moments pound dramatically, while not drowning intricate guitar sounds and the vocals. Experience pays off.