F.E.A.R. (2014), standing for Forgotten, Enslaved, Admired, Released (and nothing to do with the video game that used the same acronym, as did cross my mind when I first saw the title) is the fifth full-length album by German power metal act Dawn of Destiny. For this album the band collaborated with two guest vocalists, namely Mats Levén (Candlemass, Krux, ex-Yngwie J. Malmsteen et al) and Jon Oliva (Savatage, Jon Oliva's Pain et al).
Contrary to what I just wrote about Dawn of Destiny being a power metal act the music on F.E.A.R. is actually progressive metal with only scant elements of power metal to be found, along with some backing symphonic elements. Dawn of Destiny have of course always been a progressive power metal act anyway but they're really gone to town on making their progressive side stand out all the more this time around. Compared to their previous release Praying to the World (2012) it's almost like a completely different band. I was sceptical about this change at first. I did quite enjoy Praying to the World and I went to that album for a power metal album, even though as a power metal release it did tend to jump completely out of the genre a fair bit, in hindsight perhaps hinting at the sound that F.E.A.R. brings to the table.
I ended up rating Praying to the World pretty highly when I reviewed it (89/100) so any follow-up was always going to have its work cut out to make a better impression. I try to be as objective as possible with my ratings though, so even though I enjoyed Praying to the World a lot it wasn't an album that I kept listening to, only revisiting recently because of F.E.A.R.'s release. This is where the non-stylistic differences between the two albums become apparent though; I liked Praying to the World. I love F.E.A.R.
But let's just back up a bit here. Yes, Dawn of Destiny have changed direction a bit with this album which is no doubt going to disappoint fans who listened to them for their power metal, and there really isn't that much power metal on F.E.A.R.. Songs like Rising Angel and Finally, the seventh and eighth tracks respectively, strike me as being the most power metal orientated of the bunch. Up until these the band only used quick bursts of speed to give a nod to the genre. Dawn of Destiny really hasn't changed that much though. Power metal is a fast paced genre so the real difference here is tempo. The music still has the melody of power metal as well as catchy choruses. The songs typical do things the way power metal would in other words without the speedy instrumentation. The result has allowed the band to be more creative without paying attention to the constraints of power metal rhythms. It's infinitely more progressive than Praying to the World ever was. Perhaps ironically though those two power metal songs both turned out to be album highlights.
How the vocals are handled is another difference in sound. There are a lot more clean male vocals on F.E.A.R.. Praying to the World was basically lead female voice by Jeanette Scherff with support from both clean and growled male voice by Jens Faber. What with the two guests as well it does feel sometimes that Jeanette Scherff has been pushed aside a bit. There even a song like No Hope for the Healing which is male voice dominant. Most of the time it's a pretty even split though. This isn't a problem for me as such, but I do think Jeanette Scherff has a pretty great voice and she's easily the vocal star of the album (just as she was on Praying to the World) so there are plenty of lines here that I wish she'd sung as opposed to one of the guys. Once again I question the need for growls in Dawn of Destiny's music, but they're not used overmuch this time around and I have to admit I do think the growls were quite effective in the opening And with Silence Comes the Fear at least.
F.E.A.R. will no doubt be a surprise to fans of their previous work but once one gets over the shock that the lack of power metal in the album brings it's pretty clear that Dawn of Destiny have produced a really accomplished album that is catchy but full of epic progressive metal instrumentation. It is not perfect, but it is jam packed with excellent material. It was only really the last track To Live is to Suffer that I found to be of a lesser standard as it was quite repetitive. I only started listening to Dawn of Destiny with Praying to the World (which was the album that Jeanette Scherff joined on) but out of those two I'm very confident that F.E.A.R. is the more accomplished release.