There are some albums that you listen to and immediately think “there’s no way this can be performed in a dive bar in front of 20 people.” The music is just too “big” sounding, too grandiose, so all you can picture is an arena full of screaming fans (think Journey), with huge pyrotechnics and flashy lights. Garden of Chains by Finland’s AncarA is one of those albums, with the kind of catchy choruses and soaring melodies that absolutely beg to played in a huge amphitheater.
Sonically, AncarA have elements of power metal, progressive arena rock (along the lines of Journey), and modern hard rock similar to Breaking Benjamin. The guitars have a pretty heavy crunch, but manage to keep melody at the forefront on songs like “Changes Come” and “Perfect Enemy,” though there’s always a little bit of an 80’s rock vibe. The overall sound on Garden of Chains is really synthesizer and electronics heavy; while perfect for the live setting, the heavy-handed use of synthesizers somewhat neuter the guitar tone. The vocals match the mood of the music perfectly; though a mostly clean-sounding tenor, the lead vocalist also gets a slightly raspy, grittier edge when the tone of the music gets a little heavier.
The production is pristine, with plenty of layers in the mix, giving the album a larger-than-life tone. There is an abundance of electronics in the mix, including vocal distortions, giving Garden of Chains a very modern, arena rock-sounding vibe, with “Feeding The Fire” being one of the best examples. For fans of the AOR type bands like Journey and Foreigner that are looking something with a little more of a modern (and occasionally heavier) edge, this latest release from AncarA will be a welcome addition to their album collections. The band plays together with an enviable chemistry, but the songwriting isn’t the most original thing I’ve ever heard. Still, this album sounds like it would be pretty kick-ass in a live setting.