I am anticipating this review to exceed the average number of mentions of “power metal”, but Norwegian singer, songwriter, guitarist and overall composing mastermind Marius Danielsen makes it hard to avoid that thanks to his metal opera featuring just about anyone famous in the genre. “Metal opera” is a positively tainted phrase coined by Mr. Tobias Sammet and his ground breaking two as such titled records from the early 2000s, which he since left behind and sometimes seems to wish to ignore. Good, good, then someone else can take up the flag where he left it. On paper, it looks like Marius Danielsen’s project is fit for the task; an epic fantasy story and about a billion guest singers and musicians, the prerequisites needed, are present in Legend Of Valley Doom Part 2.
Let’s take a look at the singers first, a good indication to where this record is going musically. With Michael Kiske, Marius Danielsen managed to get the voice of power metal for his metallic symphony, and that is just what this album is about. Granted, Legend Of Valley Doom is far from the speedy power metal of the early ’80s, but these days Mr. Kiske is well known for his appearances on Sammet’s Metal Operas and other records of the like. The other (exclusively male, sadly) legends of power metal are increments of Michael Kiske in a sense, some are more famous, some are real treats for the genre lover. The latter include the return of Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon, WOAH-OH-OH-AH-AH-AH-AAAA-HA-AH-AH-AH), ex-Dionysus (RIP) and –Luca Turilli singer Olaf Hayer and Jan Thore Grefstad, whose unique voice has been sorely missed in power metal since he left Highland Glory and Saint Deamon fell asleep.
Alright, I hear ya, how’s the music? After an epic, Blind Guardian-like 3 minute campfire soundtrack about what happened in Legend Of Valley Doom Part 1, “Rise Of The Dark Empire” unmistakably shows you the way of this album. Huge choir and screaming in the first twenty seconds which lead into a double bass orgy plus symphonic orchestration prove this album is not for people who want their metal free of pathos and heroics. Marius Danielsen did his homework for power metal 101, after all he’s been around for about a decade already with his own band Darkest Sins, and his role models are clear. Danielsen’s music wouldn’t have been possible without Helloween, Gamma Ray and Blind Guardian‘s work in the ’80s, which evolved into sometimes more progressive, sometimes more operatic power metal in the ’90s and 2000s, classic power metal melodies are going hand in hand with massive orchestration in the vein of Rhapsody.
Tracks like the melody-heavy “Visions Of The Night” (featuring Alessio Garavello, former singer of Power Quest, what a gem), “By The Dragon’s Breath” with its phenomenal chorus and unsurprisingly great vocal work by still underrated master Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden, which you knew of course) or obligatory Kiske power metal hit “Angel Of Light” all breathe the spirit of 2000s metal, just letting it all out with crazy drumming, speedy riffs and happy melodies. Let’s not forget another necessity for symphonic power metal: fucking long songs. “Princess Lariana’s Forest”, nine minutes, and “Temple Of The Ancient God”, eight minutes, are closely following the rulebook on power metal longtrack structure and as a result there’s not a boring second to be found there. Not to mention getting to enjoy Olaf Hayer, Michele Luppi and Daniel Heiman on those songs.
Until now I’ve been positively raving about LOVD2, what’s the catch? Not many, just a few bones are to be picked with Mr. Danielsen. Mate, why did you waste Jan Thore Grefstad’s legendary and unique power metal voice for a ballad where it doesn’t get to shine at all? It’s like when Sammet had Herbie Langhans sing a track only in lower register. I’m glad Saint Deamon are planning their comeback, but this is honestly a waste. Talking ballads – there’s so many. Opening track “Rise Of The Dark Empire” is great, but it is preceded and followed by three, respectively eight minutes of no heavy guitars. Please don’t do that right in the beginning of the album. This flaw is half redempted by the ballad in question, “Tower Of Knowledge”, featuring another truly unique, because indeed opera-studied, voice of power metal, which is Mathias Blad of Falconer. This album has 12 tracks, but if you discount the not very metal tracks, it boils down to just seven tracks of what you came for, symphonic power metal.
Fortunately, those seven tracks (and 50 minutes of pure power metal, mind you!) are just about the greatest conceived since Sammet’s Metal Operas, 90% of it due to the involvement of the singers mentioned. The compositions are exactly what you expect, nothing exceptionally extraordinary, which is more positive than negative for power metal. Look, those who grew up with Helloween, Avantasia and Rhapsody (plus all their copies from Italy and Finland among others in the early 2000s) want more or less predictable, nontheless huge, melodic and epic power metal. And Marius Danielsen satisfies this need. Similar to the unapologetically cheesy Twilight Force record in 2016, Legend Of Valley Doom is a revelation for power metal connoisseur and will be detested by those who do not like the genre, which is a true seal of approval.