Music is very much a meeting of the elements. In the most core instances, earth, […]
By Anton Sanatov
May 13, 2016
Almanac - Tsar album cover

Music is very much a meeting of the elements. In the most core instances, earth, wind, fire and water can be used to describe the macrocosm that is a Metal band. And an accurate, proportionate assembly of these constituents can create a force of nature as untameable as it is beautiful. On "Tsar" the Symphonic Power Metal collective ALMANAC manage to strike a near-perfect balance between the agents of organic alchemy to create not only a classically primordial record but also a contemporary embodiment of Heavy Metal values.

"Tsar" opens wide with the lengthy title track that leaves little to the imagination regarding this band's approach - which is as elaborate as they come. What follows is an epic of Homer's magnitudes, as the band delivers a hearty ode from the bottom of an orchestra pit to the warriors of Heavy Metal in the likes of IRON MAIDEN and Yngwie Malmsteen (his "Odyssey" period). Tracks like "Self-blinding Eyes" and "Children of the Future" are filled with big choruses, Herculean instrumentation, soaring vocals and delectable guitar work.

Whereas a lot of symphonic bands often lose a certain Metal ferocity in favour of a lighter synth-driven aesthetic, ALMANAC hang onto their Heavy Metal components by the teeth and deliver tracks which, whilst retaining spirited melodicism, bite hard and play rough. That is why the aspects that truly give this record its power are the heavy unadulterated interludes of pure tectonic-shifting grooves and tempestuous shredding on such tracks as "Hands are Tied" and my personal favourite from the record "Nevermore".

I do, however, have some criticism towards the general compositional nature of some of the songs. As I have mentioned prior, the core strength of the record lies within its hard, riff-driven chassis. That is why the orchestral splashes that so incessantly define the bands genre tendencies appear at times out of place and unnecessary. Also, there are instances when the blend of symphonic components and the band's more straightforward "rocking" side fail to assume suitable cohesion. The multiple progressions within the songs often sound as if they've been pasted together by extensive editing instead of finding their connectivity through structural shrewdness. Having said that, ALMANAC still possesses some serious songwriting chops, and this is evident on the airy, vocally driven "Reign of Madness", which is as powerful as ballads come, and a true showcase for the entire band.

It has to be said that the overall quality of the musicianship and production is quite astounding. The high point of "Tsar" however, is Victor Smolski's (Ex-RAGE) royal guitar work. Smolski's divergent shredding seems to take you through an anthological recital of guitar creeds; as his input ranges from the blitz of philosophical neoclassical runs, to earthy grains of bluesy licks and punctuation of industrial-strength riffs. His encyclopaedic performance channels virtuosos from all schools and takes pages from the books of professors Vinnie Moore, John 5 and Zakk Wylde - a very impressive player.

In conclusion, "Tsar" is indeed a splendid record. Even if Symphonic Power Metal is the section of the record store that you're most unfamiliar with, "Tsar" will inspire you to get acquainted with it. Yet even beyond genre criteria, ALMANAC is a band that finds strength in the most organic of ingredients and churns them into pure Metal.

8 / 10









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"Tsar" Track-listing:
  1. Tsar
  2. Self-Blinded Eyes
  3. Darkness
  4. Hands Are Tied
  5. Children Of The Future
  6. No More Shadows
  7. Nevermore
  8. Reign Of Madness
  9. Flames Of Fate
Almanac Lineup:

Victor Smolski - Guitars
Andy B. Franck - Vocals
David Readman - Vocals
Jeannette Marchewka - Vocals
Armin Alic - Bass
Michael Kolar - Drums
Enric Garcia - Keyboards and Piano
Featuring: Orquestra Barcelona Filharmonia

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