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2.66 | 3 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2016

Filed under Power Metal


01. King of Persia (9:06)
02. The Choice (4:15)
03. In the Name of God (4:11)
04. Flying (4:38)
05. A Farewell That Wasn't Meant to Be (6:33)
06. Children of the Light (7:08)
07. Siren Call (2:54)
08. Live to Tell the Tale (6:32)
09. Unwelcome (5:14)
10. Out of This World (2:32)

Total Time 53:03


- Libor Krivak / Guitars
- Ivo Hofmann / Keyboards
- Olaf Hayer / Vocals
- Ronnie König / Bass
- Martin Škaroupka / Drums
- Herbie Langhans / Vocals

Guest/session musicians:
- Jana Hrochová / Vocals

About this release

Format: CD
Label: Limb Music
Release date: September 23rd, 2016

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Writing a negative review is never fun, but one thing that can be equally frustrating is reviewing an album that feels like it has huge album of the year potential, but ends up falling a bit short, due to some serious drawbacks. Such is the case with King of Persia, the second full-length album by symphonic power metal Symphonity. If anything, this album is a special kind of frustrating, because on paper it seems like it should be one of my top 10 albums of the year, but while it certainly shows signs of reaching that level, it doesn’t quite get there, due to reasons I’ll mention below.

Symphonity made their debut in 2008 with Voice From the Silence, a pretty nice album that fell on the more melodic side of the genre, and it featured moments of brilliance as well a very strong vocal performance from Olaf Hayer, who I’ve always been a fan of, especially during his time with Swedish band Dionysus. For unknown reasons, Olaf hadn’t been heard on an album since Magic Kingdom’s third album Symphony of War, released in 2010, so knowing he was back in the game was enough reason for me to be very excited for King of Persia. My excitement only grew more when I heard that the band had recruited Sinbreed vocalist Herbie Langhans to be a co-lead vocalist on the album, which is why I had such incredibly high expectations. Well, long story short, about half of the tracks are truly magical as I was hoping for, but the rest of the album leaves something to be desired, and unfortunately there is a predictable pattern that explains why some songs are better than the rest, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Musically, Symphonity tends to lean more towards the power metal side of their genre, with the symphonic elements mostly being secondary and more in the background, outside of the title track. There’s some much heavier riffing on this album at times compared to on their debut, and there’s also slight progressive leaning at times. For the most part, though, this is definitely still on the more melodic side of the genre, with a ton of soaring choruses and memorable vocal sections, and even the guitar work is still very melodic at times. This is quite the varied album, with a nice mix between faster and slower tracks, and there’s a pattern as well where Herbie tends to sing the most explosive tracks, while Olaf tends to only take lead on the more laid back tracks. This makes sense, as Herbie has a very powerful voice that’s well suited to faster, harder hitting songs, though Olaf has excelled at singing power metal in the past, and Herbie has shown himself to be capable of singing ballads before, so there’s already some mixed feelings there.

Moving on to the songwriting, we have the title track and then we have the rest of the album. By that, I mean that the title track is one mammoth of an epic where it feels like the band threw in everything they had to create the most epic song possible, and it truly is the highlight of the album and one of my favorite songs of the year. It opens with some atmospheric keys before giving us a brief preview of the heavy riffing that appears later on, immediately reminding me a bit of Symphony X with how the guitar sounds and the track definitely have some strong progressive leanings throughout. Verses are mostly slow and Olaf does a nice job with his more theatrical approach, but things really pick up once we get a first taste of the chorus, where guest vocalist Jana Hrochová provides some excellent mezzo-soprano vocals to go along with Olaf, and this makes for an amazing effect. The track also has some excellent instrumental sections where the guitars and orchestra take over, but it’s the speedy version of the chorus that appears later on where the track really reaches takes off, and while Olaf is the lead singer for most of the track, Herbie shows up later on and really steals the show with his powerful voice.

Speaking of which, the tracks where Herbie takes lead are without a doubt my favorites on the album. The first of these is “The Choice”, a speedy track where the guitars again have a bit of edge, though it’s certainly not as heavy or as complex as the title track. Instead, it’s a more straight-forward power metal track with an outstanding chorus, where Herbie’s vocals are the clear highlight. While he sounds as powerful as ever on this album, he also shows an ability to tone it down just enough to let the melodies shine through, and this is especially noticeable on more melodic mid-paced tracks like “Live to the Tale” and “Flying”, with the latter having a huge vocal section towards the end where Herbie provides the most powerful moment of the entire album and probably the best vocals I’ve ever heard from him. On the faster side of things, “Unwelcome” and “Children of the Light” are both instant winners, with the latter especially having yet another outstanding chorus, though it also has some extended instrumental work and there’s a slight neoclassical feel to the track. All in all, that track is definitely one of my favorites on the album. On the whole, I have to say this album may be the best performance I’ve heard from Herbie, and so at least on that front, the album delivered big time.

It’s been all positive so far, and things continue to look promising with “In the Name of God”, the first track where Olaf sings by himself. His more dramatic vocal style works very well during the mid-paced verses, and he does a great job of getting the lyrics through, while the chorus is great and overall it’s a very melodic track with some excellent guitar work. Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about the track is that it doesn’t quite have the same spark the tracks with Herbie have. After that, though, things go a bit downhill as “A Farewell Meant to Be” is the first ballad and while Olaf sounds decent on the chorus and the guitar solo in the second half is amazing and helps save the track, the verses are not so pretty, to say the least. This is the first case where we hear Olaf struggling a little bit, as his voice seems much lower than it did in the past and he’s clearly struggling to hit some of the notes here during the verses, his dramatic approach not quite working the way it should be, so as much as I’ve liked him in the past, it pains me to say he’s clearly the weakest link in the band at this point. Likewise, his performance on “Siren Call” is downright embarrassing at points, where his voice just clearly isn’t there anymore. I hate to say it, but I would have much preferred the album if those two tracks were either removed completely or if Herbie had sung them.

So in the end, Olaf Hayer’s big return ends up being a bit of a disappointment, though at the same time with how good he sounds on the title track, it really leaves me with mixed feelings on where Symphonity should go, as he still shows signs being great. That little bit of negativity aside, though, King of Persia is still a quality symphonic power metal album I could easily recommend to fans of the genre, and fans of Sinbreed who would like to hear more from Herbie Langhans have a lot to enjoy here, so it’s still a satisfying album overall, even if it feels like it could have and should have been even better.

originally written for
Herbie Langhans is sure becoming one of metal's really prolific vocalists. Having already delivered some top quality singing with acts such as Sinbreed and Beyond the Bridge and also appeared on the most recent Avantasia album Ghostlights (2016), we now find him fronting the Czech symphonic power metal act Symphonity. He was actually a guest on the group's previous album Voice from the Silence (2008). It's not an uncommon practice for a singer who previously guested with a band to be invited to join full-time later, if that band suddenly finds themselves without a singer of their own. Only that's not actually what happened with Symphonity and their long-awaited second full-length album King of Persia (2016), as here we find Herbie Langhans sharing lead vocal duties with the group's existing vocalist, Olaf Hayer. Symphonity won't be the first band to add an extra vocalist to their line-up. It's actually quite a common thing these days, with bands such as Wolfchant, Coronatus (who went from two to three before going back to two) and even Gamma Ray doing it.

For some of the bands that do this, or who always used more than one full-time vocalist, the practice works. Wolfchant, to use one of my previous examples, did a great thing when they switched to two vocalists, due to using greatly different vocal styles. But it can also end up having the effect that more is actually less. Coronatus ended up with a situation where one vocalist was really overpowering and outshining the other two, to the point where it seemed that they may as well not be there. It's a similar situation that Symphonity find themselves in with King of Persia. Herbie Langhans is a great vocalist and thanks to his work with Sinbreed has already proved that his voice and style works very well in a power metal band. Since he is here, there is really no reason for Symphonity to have a second vocalist who shares the same clean singing style, which is exactly what we have with Olaf Hayer. When Herbie Langhans was paired with female vocalist Dilenya Mar in Beyond the Bridge that worked, as male and female voices are obviously quite different. But here having two clean singing male vocalists feels completely unnecessary. And every time Olaf Hayer sings it only leaves one impression, and it's an album killer: why isn't Herbie Langhans singing this part?

Though to be honest, I don't find King of Persia to be a very interesting album even if I ignore the issue in the vocal department. Symphonity's brand of symphonic power metal is listenable enough when Herbie Langhans is singing, but it's not very exciting either. Like with the majority of power metal bands, they're at their best when sticking to the tried and true fast playing style but also fall into the trap of throwing in bland and unnecessary balladry, which is an area where Symphonity trips up even worse than most as Olaf Hayer's singing on such tracks simply does not sound very good at all, making tracks such as A Farewell That Wasn't Meant To Be and Siren Call painful to get through. The tone of his voice even has a tendency to sound mournful to my ears, which is completely at odds with the lively music that power metal is supposed to be. There are better tracks of course, such as Unwelcome and the opening King of Persia title track, where we even hear some progressive influence, even though I would still prefer Herbie Langhans to sing solo. But overall the writing on the album feels completely in line with the vocals: disjointed. The album also ends rather anti-climatically with Out of this World, a short instrumental that seems to serve no purpose.

King of Persia could have been a great album for Symphonity but the only impression it leaves me with is that it's a messy release. Herbie Langhans is great and deserves all praise he can get but it's very confusing why he was brought in alongside Olaf Hayer. All the band ended up achieving was Herbie Langhans showing Olaf Hayer up and Olaf Hayer holding Herbie Langhans back. So ultimately the only thing I can recommend is to just go listen to Herbie Langhans's most recent Sinbreed offering Master Creator (2016) instead, if you're looking for new material from this great vocalist.

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