Serenity – “Lionheart” (Napalm Records)
Winners of this year’s Amadeus Music Award, great things are happening for this Austrian symphonic metal band – not in the least this stupendous release based on Richard The Lionheart! One of the most notable figures in European history, the exploits of King Richard are well known and Serenity have done a very fine job on the 13 tracks here, much of which is actually based on historical fact. Although classically rooted and certainly using orchestral arrangements, there is also a heavy power metal aspect that adds energy to the material that allows it to take on epic proportions worthy of ‘Coeur De Lion‘ in every aspect, from battle hardened hymns to flowing symphonic pieces to galloping power ballads, all resplendent I might add with massive amounts of catchy melodies oozing heart grabbing passion! It’s all pulled off by the composing talent and sterling musicianship of these Tyroleans, from Georg Neuhauser’s vocals that resonate tons of soul to Chris Hermsdörfer’s wonderfully dexterous guitars that on the one hand are as heavy as a Crusader broadsword while being able to slash silk like a Saracen’s scimitar – excellent! With talents going beyond the band from being PHD students to R&D engineers and recording studio managers, all of this has been brought to bear here in the uplifting ‘Rising’ which does exactly that in its heavenly vocal harmonies before Hermsdörfer sends in a soulful solo and then gallops off to Andreas Schipflinger’s mid paced double bass drumming while on ‘The Fortress (of Blood and Sand)’ exotic middle eastern melodies blend wonderfully with the deep n heavy rock metal made all the more so by Fabio D’Amore’s battering ram bass! Evoking plenty of epic atmosphere throughout the album, it all culminates in the heart breaking closer of ‘The Final Crusade’ which pretty much takes on cinematic proportions with its epic guitar and multiple vocals drawing in gruff styles and female duets along with piano and orchestrals – truly breathtaking. Without a shadow of doubt I’d advise you to check out this excellent album as serene it certainly isn’t!