Written by: Lord Hsrah
What comes to your mind when someone mentions power metal in a conversation? Enchanting and melodic music? Trailblazing, blistering solos faster than Flash zipping and unzipping his pants? Soaring clean vocals much higher than your worst LSD trip? The most grandest of grand and rich choruses that they can afford buying a villa on a beach in LA? Because when I found Ascension (UK) guitarist Fraser Edwards' The Architect in my inbox, I was more than assured that I'll be getting all those things in a single package (not the villa, of course,) and that I wouldn't be disappointed. Being the sucker that I am for some tasty and exquisite power metal, Fraser definitely dropped a banger of an album, and this time with a much louder bang than his previous one, of which I'm sure, the sound of explosion will reverberate even outside Japan.
This sophomore solo effort is an immaculate record that not only boasts Fraser's guitar playing skills and abilities, but also highlights his qualities as a producer. The music is catchy--no, scratch that. The music is like a massive fishing net that can be dubbed as the 'daddy' of all catchies...and all other sorts of things used to catch other things and people(...?) In a word: it's superb! The album is 12 tracks long, running for just about 44mins, and consists of a couple of instrumental guitar tracks as well. It has everything you could ask for in a power metal album, and if that's not enough, Fraser spices things up by blending in certain elements most prominent in pop music, be it an arrangement or a certain vocal section. And speaking of which, his old mate from Ascension, Richard Carnie, accompanies him on the album to take on vocal duties which are ever so splendidly performed. Ex-Viking Galaxy drummer Andrew Scott was brought in to take on drumming duties, while the main man himself takes superb care of guitars, bass and keyboards.
The Architect sounds massive, especially in comparison with Edwards' previous (debut) solo album I Am God, which was released back in 2016. It's safe to say that he's really stepped up his game. The guitars are heavy and more pronounced, the keys have a great presence throughout the album, the vocals boldly come forward, and the drums are super tight. You might think that it's cheesy--and you'd be crazy to not think so--but it's right there with the most beautiful of...whatever your favorite cheese is. The production is modernized and mastering engineer Tony Lindgren does well to finish off the album making it sound nice and crisp--something you admittedly don't want your cheese to be; it's well balanced on all fronts, production included.
Fraser's compositions are a mixture of several styles and particularly, they don't seem to follow a standard formula or a derivable pattern, that is ever so present on most other albums, as several bands often do when writing their stuff. I've been following Fraser's stuff since his Ascension days and I love that he's added a bunch of new weapons to his already vast artillery, as the album showcases his versatility and flexibility as a musician as well as a composer, as if his ability to play multiple instruments didn't already do that. The album on a whole is chock full o' complex arrangements, key changes, heavy usage of guitar effects, various other guitar tricks and sounds all written, arranged and driven to achieve one single goal--to be the daddy of catchies--and let me tell you, you best call start calling it *in Frank Farian's voice* "daddy."
The album starts off with the title track, which is a solid and perfectly well structured instrumental guitar track, rife with some of the most tastiest guitar licks in the entirety of the album. The neoclassical elements in this one really bring out the power metal nerd in me as I remember the excellent works of 90's Rhapsody, Stratovarius, and Angra. I mean, sure, you can learn to play some neoclassical stuff, but the inclusion of certain sections, and the way they're played on this one really take me back to Turilli, Tolkki, and Kiko (yeah, same dude now in Megadeth.) Following this shredfest comes on the first single off the album, "Stop Saying We Sound Like DragonForce," and this is where the real fun begins. It's quite literally designed to sound like DragonForce with multiple layers of lead lines, harmonized keyboard and guitar parts, and boy oh boy does Carnie do a great job on the vox! Those pipes have lots of power, lots of intensity, and the ceiling is real high that reminds me of Tommy Johansson (Majestica, formerly ReinXeed) quite a bit.
Now here's the catch (pun intended)--for all my praise, one would argue that it sounds just like your modern, run of the mill, overshredded, over cheesy, over gimmicky, over effect-y, over guitar-ed power metal album. And though, quite honestly, being biased towards power metal, I might not like hearing that, I'd have to agree with you ('cause I'm mature and rational). The Architect indeed is something that bands like DragonForce, Twilight Force, Victorius, as well as several other J-Power metal bands like Dragon Guardian, Galneryus, Versailles, etc. have been doing, and fundamentally, there's nothing different about it. But then again, what is different or unique in metal these days that hasn't been done before? And if your answer to that rhetoric question is the inclusion of pop/punk elements, then I'm afraid you're wrong there as well, which brings me to my second point of criticism for this album. Certain sections of a majority of the number of songs contain these pop elements and some, like myself, might find it a bit off putting, and I don't blame anyone for that. I mean, even the odd fairy in tales in a wonderland gets kidnapped or something - you get the point (I hope). However, in Fraser's defense, if "it's not C# it's not DragonForce" (yes, I'm referring to Herman Li's and Sam Totman's reaction to the single).
Stop saying you sound like DragonForce? Yeeaaah...suureee. Yes, they're my favorite band too. But yes, your life long wish to write a song that's as catchy did come true.
Fraser Edwards -The Architect was independently released June 5th.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!