MAJESTY — Legends (review)

MAJESTY — Legends album cover Album · 2019 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
DippoMagoo
It can sometimes be very shocking, when a well established band, known for a very specific sound, suddenly decides to shift gears seemingly out of nowhere. It’s happened with countless numbers of well known bands before, and will almost certainly happen countless more times, as bands continuously look to evolve and distinguish themselves from everyone else. One band who always had a clear, distinct direction to their music is German heavy/power metal band Majesty, formed in 1997, and with eight albums in their discography (or nine, if you include their Metalforce album, which had a different name, but was largely similar to their other releases.) While the band had made some very subtle changes on some of their albums (such as the more laid back Sword & Sorcery, or the pure, intense knockout of an album that was Hellforces) their main sound was always immediately noticeable, falling somewhere in between classic Manowar and early Euro power metal.

So, when the first single for their upcoming ninth album, Legends, was released and proved to be a dramatic change in direction for the band, fans were shocked, and in some cases disappointed to hear the band seemingly abandoning their usual sound. Personally, I found the change interesting, as I do love the band’s earlier releases, and found their previous album, Rebels, to be easily their best since Hellforces, but a potential shift in sound didn’t bother me one bit, as long as they could pull it off well. Now that I’ve heard Legends several times, I am left with mixed feelings, as there are moments where the new sound works wonders and takes the band to new heights, but there are also some misguided experiments, as well as times where trying to mash old and new elements together don’t quite work out. The album ultimately feels like a new beginning for something that could pay off on future releases, but at least for now, the band hasn’t quite nailed their new sound down as well as their old one.

Longtime fans of the band were certainly in for a shock when they heard the rather cheesy keyboards used on lead single “Burn the Bridges”, and while not every song falls in line with that one, there’s certainly a lot more where that came from. On each of their previous albums, Majesty played a style of music that could best be described as a mix of classic Manowar and Euro power metal, with a bit more speed and intensity compared to the former, while at times being a bit more laid back than the latter, while still being very epic and melodic at all times. Their lyrics were often in line with their heroes, as indicated by such album titles as “Keep It True” and “Reign in Glory”, and so Legends is already a big chance of pace, being a concept album centered around a post apocalyptic wasteland, complete with little bits of narration. This is the first sign of trouble, as the album lacks some of the fun and wackiness of their past albums, while the narration is very forced and irritating, especially on the very skippable intro track, which gets the album off on the wrong foot.

Musically, the band still has traces of their classic metal sound, but the songs all have a more modernized feel to them, with keyboards aplenty, and some of the guitar work has a slightly chunkier, more modernized sound to it. I actually find the album works best when the band goes all in with their new sound, as they do have the ability to write some very fun, energetic tracks with a slightly more modern sound, and the speedier, more power metal focused tracks are especially strong on this one, while some of the tracks where they try inserting some of their classic elements to go along with the keys and overall more melodic approach, just don’t quite work out too well. Performances are still strong across the board, with the guitarists having some great moments, especially some really beautiful, melodic solos on many of the tracks, while vocalist Tarek Mahgary still sounds like a slightly lighter singing, deeper voiced version of Eric Adams, and his vocals are as excellent as always, while the production is also top notch.

The biggest area where the album comes up short is in the songwriting. There are some excellent songs here, but there’s also a few that come up just a bit short of greatness, as well as one that could only be described as a total disaster. Following the terrible intro track I already mentioned, the band comes out full guns blazing with “Rizing Home”, a speedy, hard hitting power metal with some great lead riffs, an excellent solo in the second half, fun verses and an absolutely incredible anthem like chorus, the likes of which they’ve always excelled at, though this may be one of their absolute best, especially with the infectious hook of “ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh Rizing Home”, which will never get old! It’s also a perfect example of how to pull off their new sound effectively, without fully abandoning their past, as it’s still very much a heavy, energetic metal track, but it mixes in some keyboards, though the key is they’re largely kept in the background and used to add an extra layer of epic, to what’s already a great track, and so they’re never dominant or distracting. Overall, it’s an absolute masterpiece of a track, and one which, sadly, the rest of the album can’t quite live up to.

Following that epic opener is lead single “Burn the Bridges”, another fine example of the band’s new sound. This one immediately gives off some Sabaton vibes, with the very cheesy keyboards, and it has a lighter sound overall, though it still moves along at a fast pace, with some very fun verses, an epic build up and then the chorus comes in and manages to be simultaneously a whole lot of fun, while also being one of the most annoyingly repetitive things I’ve ever heard on a metal track. I eventually came to love it, but the fact that it has to follow “Rizing Home”, which manages to be equally energetic, while having a much stronger chorus, does end up hurting it just a bit. The solo in the second half is excellent, though, and it’s a very fun track overall. Next is “We Are Legends”, and this one is a bit of a mixed bag. It has traces of the band’s classic sound, with an epic, fun chorus that brings “Rebels of Our Time” to mind, but at the same time, the chunkier guitar work during the verses feels a bit out of place, while the keys are a bit awkward sounding, and don’t mesh well with the overall classic vibe of the track. It’s a case of old and new clashing together in a way where everything just comes off feeling a bit muddled.

The album picks up for a while after that minor letdown, with second single “Wasteland Outlaw” laying down the blueprint for how to make a slower paced, more laid back heavy metal track with the band’s new sound, as it’s very light, very keyboard dominant and is one of the most relaxed and more melodic tracks on the album, with guitars playing a very minor role. At the same time, it’s a very enjoyable track, with an excellent, irresistibly catchy chorus and an excellent melodic guitar solo. Next is “Church of Glory”, another very keyboard driven track, though it’s a more upbeat track, with some very bouncy keyboard hooks during the verses, while the chorus has more of a classic feel to it, with some nice melodic guitar work, some insanely epic backing vocals, and awesome vocal melodies all around. It’s definitely one of the best, most fun tracks on the album, though some fans may be turned off by the over the top keys. Another strong track is “Mavericks Supreme”, which is very much in line with the previous track, though the keyboards are a bit more restrained, and if anything the chorus is even more epic and fun. It’s another fun, upbeat track, with incredible backing vocals, an excellent, very melodic guitar solo, and a nice use of keyboards. The final speedy track on the album comes two tracks later, with “Last Brigade”, and it’s another massive highlight, probably the best on the album aside from “Rizing Home”. It’s a fast paced, hard hitting track with some very aggressive guitar work, fast and furious verses, and an unbelievably uplifting, insanely epic chorus, with some more incredible melodies and backing vocals. It’s one of those tracks that fits in perfectly with the new sound, while still managing to have a slight throwback feel to it, and it’s absolutely amazing from start to finish.

Unfortunately, the worst moment of the album comes in between those last two tracks. Majesty are usually pretty good at ballads, with “Across the Lightning” from Rebels being particularly excellent, but it’s safe to say, “Words of Silence” is by far their weakest ballad ever, if not their absolute weakest song, period. It’s largely a piano ballad, with slight symphonic elements, but it struggles to get going right away with some rather awkward vocal melodies, and more alarmingly, an F-Bomb shows up early on, with more to follow later in the track. The thing is, swearing can be effective, if used on an angry, aggressive track, but on such a tame sounding ballad, it just feels forced and hopelessly out of place. Worse though, the second verse has an attempt at some very bouncy vocal melodies that come close to rap, and it’s just pure torture to listen to, while the chorus is better, and feels close to being good, but it just doesn’t quite get there: Something about it just feels a tad off, and so it never gives the emotional feeling it should. A nice guitar solo in the second half is really the only redeeming quality the track has, but otherwise (and I really hate to say this,) the track is an outright colossal failure, and one of the worst tracks I’ve heard so far this year, if not the absolute worst.

With that downer of a track out of the way, we move to the final two tracks, both of which are solid, but unspectacular. First up is “Blood of the Titans” a slightly upbeat, hard hitting track, with solid verses and a pretty epic, fun chorus, though it doesn’t reach the heights of most of the earlier tracks on the album, aside from another excellent guitar solo in the second half, as well as a great use of keys. Closing out the album is “Stand As One”, a very modern sounding, more mid paced track, with some very chunky riffs, an overuse of keys, and decent verses, helped somewhat by yet another very fun, epic and catchy chorus, with more outstanding vocal melodies. Its not the strongest way to end an album, but it’s a pretty solid track, and it doesn’t reach the lows some of the other tracks do, so it’s a fine enough ending.

Legends is an interesting album, in that it shows signs of being incredible at times, with the new keyboard driven focus working wonders on some tracks, while the vocal melodies and choruses are generally amazing, the speedier sections tend to be equal parts intense, melodic and pure fun, while the solos are excellent, as always, and yet there are enough weaker points to drag the album down, to the point where it ends up being a bit of a mess. I think Majesty need to decide whether or not they’re willing to fully commit to this new sound or go back to their roots, as the tracks that lean more towards one way or the other tend to work out the best, while tracks that try and mix the two together often see the two styles clashing in ways that cause the song to turn into a muddled mess. I can definitely see longtime fans of the band being disappointed, though I can also see people turned off by their Manowar influences being more willing to give this album a chance, thanks to the more modernised approach, while newcomers are likely to find some enjoyment, as there’s enough variety and enough outstanding moments for the album to be worth a shot. It’s not as good an album as I was hoping it would be, but it’s still very fun at times, and it does show potential for better things in the future, if the band can figure out how to pull everything together. At the vary least, it feels like a potential start to a new era for Majesty, and it leaves me very excited to see what they come up with next. It may not be the total knockout I was hoping for, but it certainly isn’t a total failure, either. It’s more of a fascinating near miss, than anything.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/06/26/majesty-legends-review/
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