Kaledon is one of those acts like many others from Italy: Melodic, powerful, phenomenally talented and not well known outside of their homeland. This is despite the fact that, since their formation in ’98, they have released six full-length albums (this review is for their seventh) and toured all over Europe. The sad fact is that bands like this, especially ones hailing from Italy, seem to be a dime-a-dozen commodity.
Altor: The King’s Blacksmith fits pretty firmly in the standard Power Metal mode and doesn’t really have much to distinguish it from other Italian acts like Rhapsody of Fire. They’re a bit faster, definitely, and they throw in some interesting flourishes here and there, sure. It even has an interesting concept behind it (Boy grows up to become a blacksmith in the king’s employ) that not many bands with this lyrical bent have approached. It’s a high-quality Power Metal product and that is a cold-hard fact. It just doesn’t have much to differentiate it from dozens of other releases.
Like all good Power Metal albums, however, there are stand-out tracks: moments where the band is able to break-out of the mold and make something memorable. “Kephren” is up there with the best material that Hammerfall has ever produced, conjuring images in one’s head of clashing swords and clanging axes in the twilight sun, and “A Dark Prison” recalls those unsung classic Malmsteen records fronted by Mike Vescera (‘94s The Seventh Sign and ‘95s Magnum Opus1) with its dark-fantasy, dungeon-escape vibe. These definitely aren’t songs to turn one’s feudal nose up at.
The production is nothing to sneer at either. While there are plenty of examples of Power Metal albums that fall into the trap of being produced too cleanly, this is not one of them. It’s definitely a crisp record, but with enough grit and dirt to remind the listener that they aren’t just listening to a fantasy epic, but a Metal album as well. The only complaint that can be levied against the knob work is that, at times, vocalist Marco Palazzi’s solid pipes are mixed too quietly amongst the dueling drums and guitars.
At the end of the day, you have to decide what you want from your Power Metal. If you’re satisfied with the state of the genre today and don’t believe that there needs to be expansion or experimentation, this is the perfect disc for you. As for those of us who try to look for something different in each album we purchase, you may need to look elsewhere. Altor: The King’s Blacksmith is a solid Power Metal offering. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Seriously, if you haven’t heard these, change that immediately. [↩]