Review

ARMORY Empyrean Realms

Album · 2013 · Power Metal
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5/5 ·
adg211288
Empyrean Realms (2013) is the second full-length album by US power metal act Armory (although they actually belong to the so called European branch of the genre). It's been several years since Armory made their debut with The Dawn of Enlightenment (2007) and I gather that Empyrean Realms is one of those albums that has been in the works, and delayed, for quite some time before its eventual release towards the end of 2013. I didn't get to hear Armory's debut yet however, but I can certainly hear through Empyrean Realms how it must have been worth the wait for those listening to Armory for years (The Dawn of Enlightenment seems to be very highly regarded in certain power metal circles), as Armory have produced something special here in their second album.

Armory's brand of melodic power metal may initially seem to be a textbook example with little originality; fast, melodic, often prominent keyboards (although they don't really step into full symphonic territory) and epic clean vocals. Even if that summed up Empyrean Realms, this would still be a highly worthwhile release, because it's instantly made clear with opener Eternal Mind that Armory are a bunch of guys who have studied the book of power metal at length and come top in their class. What makes Empyrean Realms special is that the start of this paragraph doesn't accurately describe what Armory sound like; their sound is further characterised by often overt progressive elements, particularly in their instrumental sections, as well as a good old classic heavy metal vibe.

This is especially good for a power metal album, because it is also one of those seemingly rare cases where the band doesn't feel the need to throw a ballad in. Armory aren't a power metal band who are all about speed, speed and a bit more speed, but they are always metal and that makes a defining difference. Too many excellent power metal albums have had their flow disrupted part way through because of a pointless ballad. The ironic thing is given their obvious talent Armory are probably the one in ten power metal band who could do a ballad the right way, but all the same I'm glad they didn't on Empyrean Realms, since this album is near enough the perfect power metal release at it is.

Aside from the highly skilled composition, instrumental and production work I'm greatly impressed by the band's lead singer Adam Kurland. It's very possible that Armory have the quintessential male voice for melodic power metal in this guy. His tone is pure with absolutely none of the rough edge heard from the singer's of acts such as Grave Digger or Iced Earth, but neither is he as high pitched as those heard in acts such as Heavenly or early Helloween. In fact although his tone is a bit different he reminds me of Bruce Dickinson more than anyone, the soaring notes, the power; the two are definitely in the same league.

Empyrean Realms is a rare kind of album, as few albums impress me as much as it did based on first impressions alone. Most releases that earn a top tier rating from me tend to require several listens to digest and open up to me, before earning such a regard. Others might make that excellent first impression and then fail to hang onto it after the initial wow factor has worn off. Empyrean Realms doesn't belong in either of these categories. It makes that excellent first impression and further listens set it in stone. I don't think I really need to say it at this point, but I will anyway just to round this review off, Empyrean Realms is a true gem of the power metal genre, right up there with classics such as Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 and 2 or Blind Guardian's Imaginations from the Other Side and a top tier, five star range rating, is easily deserved.

99/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/armory-empyrean-realms-t3296.html)
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