A few words upfront, because it's not gonna be easy.
As of writing these words I haven't touched the album yet. It's been 5 months since I reviewed an album, and the last review was the fantastic Titanium II album, also a power metal cd and also from Poland. I'm not gonna lie that I won't compare both albums in this review.
To add even more difficulty I will add the fact that I read a few reviews of this album, and they were very highly rated (8/10 and 9/10 reviews), this also makes my expectations much higher. And it's a debut, so I will be even more harsh on it, especially that it took so much time to release it (last time I heard from Lux Perpetua was in 2014).
With that said, let us begin. From the touchy-touchy side the album is solid- digipack has a nice artwork, there is a fancy booklet and the band managed to get me a signed one which is always a personal plus.
The music starts with Celebration , an instrumental short intro to the album with a very medival touch before guitars enter and add the heavier than usual (as far as power metal goes) oomph. The transition into the title track The Curse of the Iron King is very smooth. Vocals enter with much lower voice than the usual power metal bands go for. Mixing is ok, with vocals pushed nicely upfront, but the orchestrations are left too far behind for my taste. The tempo is fast, drums and guitar solo are juicy and I would only ask for some more vocal power during the chorus.
I talked to the band about it before, and they told me they went for more organic sound "we sound on the album just like we do live". Thankfully near the end vocals show much more power before the headbanging short outro. Overall a very solid track.
They don't slow down and go straight to The Legend , the track from a few years ago, finally recorded in a great quality with different vocals. It shows that they worked with this material carefully in this time, it's way more polished than the previous track. But the asshole lives in me, just like the legend lives in them - rhyming "us" with "us" is a shitty move in my book, even if the track is pretty much perfect beside that.
Army of Salvation is next with a little spoken part before a typical audience-sing-along "hey!" moment, awesome keyboards and basically another hit song. Good lyrics, awesome catchy and easy rhymes in the chorus are basically the quintessence of power metal.
Let me stop here for a moment- we are rating a debut here and so far I can totally understand why other reviews were so highly rated- we have a very solid intro-first track flow with something more ambitious and complex opening the album and then 2 killer hit songs. If debuts are about making the impact then Lux Perpetua totally understands that, and how important is a good track placement on the album.
An Old Bard is slower and allows the orchestrations to show their good side. And the verse goes weird, with vocals being as loud as orchestrations, and drums in the back going wild before the song goes faster. A bit distracting, slightly irritating, but moves fast to another segment of the song so I'm not gonna write more about it. I hoped for a ballad after two killer tracks, but the slower intro of that song can kinda count as that. But the next song is one, Eversong .
Very soothing piece of music, nice and loud bass and well mixed vocals, but guitars are slightly too loud and sting the ears a bit. Not a huge flaw, might be the matter of taste.
Riders of the Dead brings back the speed, vocals go back a bit and I can't hear the lyrics as much as I would like to. The choirs in the chorus are barely heard and since they try to fill the lead vocals it barely works. There are a few ideas here and there but it doesn't really stick together to be as entertaining as previous songs.
Rebellion is up next and has simillar problems, post-verse part that should open the chorus isn't impressive and the chorus is straight Hammerfall with repeating the song title a few times and adding short, simple rhymes. This is the moment where I wouldn't mind to hear a song like that, but when I see reviews giving 9/10 I expect much, much more than that. Maybe I should mention here that guitar work on the last 2 tracks is amazing and the background is rich and juicy, so these are not failures, just "not as good as the rest" songs.
Werewolf hopefully is more interesting, with the Powerwolf-ish organs in the intro. And it is, the pre verse ends with a lot of power. And just like Powerwolf they prove that you can record ten thousand songs about werewolfs and they will usually work very well. Maybe I should write the first werewolf track that will truly suck?
There are many ideas in this song, just like there were in Riders of the Dead, but here it all sticks and works together very well and in Riders it didn't. I'm a shitty musician and a shitty reviewer, I can't tell the band why it works here and doesn't there, but maybe they can figure it out. Maybe it's having a catchy-as-fuck main riff that makes You headbang even when writing at the same time this very sentence? And repeating it during the spoken outro a few times to leave a much better impact holy shit it's so good, You guys were brilliant to repeat it a few times. Uhm, but the fade is too short and sudden, so not the perfect last 3 seconds of the outro but still a very good song.
^ This shit is why the album is worth checking out, the outro of this rather complex monster (literally) song was very unexpected- we have some tempo changes, nice build of the song, almost progressive elements and then we end on a repeated line with a catchy riff and awesome lyrics? Brilliant, I think it's the first time I heard such an amazing example of that idea.
Desert of Destiny is next and we're nearing the end of the album. Solid intro, some strange whispers during the powerful vocal performance before the chorus kicks in.
It's weird to me how during the chorus power goes away from vocals by a significant amount, we have some supporting choirs but they are not loud enough to make a difference. Lyrics try to save the chorus the best they can but in the end it's very noticable. Consolation ends the album with an instrumental and as usual I won't rate the bonus track.
Ok, so how was the album? It is good. Faced my high expectations and lived up to them while still being able to surprise me. Unusual approach with lower vocals is interesting and well delivered, even if sometimes I would love to hear some more power on the second half of the album.
Choirs don't work too many times, I think the band should really work on them in a studio. I'm aware that this material is more organic and focused on live performances, but adding some more vocal layers in the studio would only benefit the sound, trust me on that.
Lyrics are 95% good, very suitable and long for that style, even if the rhymes are rather simple. They work most of the time and help to make the music very catchy.
Guitars remind me a lot of the second Gloryhammer album, or in a way the first Titanium album. There are a lot of solos, which is perfect for a debut album and they are not repeatable or boring, most of them is really thought out. Riffs are also very solid, so in comparison guitars here totally crush early Sonata Arctica albums, where solos were just as amazing but the riffs sucked balls.
I will need to hear the album more to correctly rate the drums and the bass, but I heard bass in a few tracks (which is a compliment on it's own, because I barely hear bass in most power metal songs) and the drum work is complex. It's not your daily blast-fast power metal drumming, I heard some real power in those hits and I loved it.
Keyboards and orchestrations were nice, they made a real difference in a few tracks (Werewolf intro was amazing).
But let's focus on what doesn't work here, there is not a lot but I really wanna nitpick everything I can.
Mixing is not perfect. It's good, very good even, but I want more than that. This may collide with the whole organic sound idea that band wants to go with, but I would really want to hear how Karol Mania would mix this album. It would take him like 2 years because he works slowly even when encouraged or tortured, but I bet I would love the result 30% more than what I just heard.
Not every track is amazing as noted above. It's not like the last Stratovarius album, where they started with absolutely mindblowing song and then the rest of the album was awful in comparison, but it feels like the second half of the album is worse. Desert of Destiny ends without any fireworks and the chorus also has it's problems, so maybe the tracklist should be slightly modified, with Werewolf ending the album (it would be an amazing outro, without any instrumentals behind it). Still, we have 6 great songs and 3 mediocre/good ones, so the album is very good overall.
This might be nitpicking, but after waiting 3 years for this album I really had some high expectations from it, so I had to mention what doesn't work in my opinion.
As for the band debut- it could hardly be better than that. If listening to one of the killer tracks doesn't make you wanna check the guys out then I'm surprised. There is a lot of potential for future improvements, live shows and style changes. The medival approach of Lux Perpetua can be slightly pushed into folk metal territory (kinda like Elvenking, but the one that doesn't suck).
I was worried before playing this album, because I was afraid to hear Rhapsody of Fire clone (a symphonic power metal approach, which I'm not a big fan of), but thankfully it's something else.
I promised to compare this album to the recent Titanium album. Well, Titanium is better, they have a better vocalist, better guitarist, lyrics are partially written by me so they are naturally better, the mixing is better, there are less solos because Titanium is way more mature and they write about Primoz, Lord of the Night and Day, not some old bards-farts.
On a serious note I don't feel the need to compare the albums, I thought that I would have some comparisons to speak about but in the end it doesn't even matter
Check Lux Perpetua out if You haven't and take care.
+good looking artwork&stuff
+medival theme for the whole album, nice touch
-- Rhymming "us" with "us", shame, SHAME!
- kinda 'meh' closing song
Total score that totally matters and is not bullshit whatsoever: 100%
but in the scale 1-10 it's most likely to be a wizzard/10