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Serenity - "Codex Atlanticus" (CD)

Serenity - "Codex Atlanticus" CD cover image

"Codex Atlanticus" track listing:

1. Codex Atlanticus
2. Follow Me
3. Sprouts of Terror
4. Iniquity
5. Reason
6. My Final Chapter
7. Caught in a Myth
8. Fate of Light
9. The Perfect Woman
10. Spirit in the Flesh
11. The Order

Reviewed by on May 17, 2016

"With huge orchestration matched by crunching metal riffs and backed by Neuhauser’s indelible voice and love of history, the album presents Serenity at its absolute peak..."

I will admit, upon meeting and interviewing former Serenity guitarist Thomas Buchberger back at ProgPower in 2012, it was apparent just how much of a force he was in the band’s musical compositions. His departure in 2014 left me wondering what would become of this brilliant symphonic metal act. On first listen to “Codex Atlanticus,” it became apparent that I severely underestimated the power of Professor Georg Neuhauser and the creativity team of Fabio D’Amore (Pathosray/ex-Fairyland), Adreas Schipflinger and Buchberger’s replacement Cris Tian (ex-Visions of Atlantis). Proudly, “Codex Atlanticus” recaptures the lost greatness of “Death & Legacy,” an album that set the bar for symphonic metal albums.

But for a handful of established and outstanding acts, I’ve truly soured on what has become the proto-typical symphonic metal of late. The subgenre has become so diluted with subpar bands that are mislabeled and misrepresented, but which lack the talent, passion and songwriting ability to keep it interesting. Serenity is without a doubt one of the subgenre’s best acts, ranking right up there with Nightwish and Xandria. The sound can sometimes be saturated in keyboards, but never loses its metallic edge and fantastic guitar work. With Buchberger out, Tian has brought some of that crunch back, which may have been diminished just a little bit on the still-stellar “War of Ages” (2013).

If you are looking for proof of that Serenity has not skipped a beat and is now dramatically better, check out “Iniquity.” Not since “Heavenly Missions,” “New Horizons” or “Serenade of Flames” have I been more moved to tears with a song than this. It beams with symphonic perfection, teetering between guitar mastery and orchestrated brilliance. The next track “Reason” has a distinct feel of a Bond (James Bond) movie song within its melody. Then there is near album favorite “The Perfect Woman,” not only because the instant image it places in the mind from the title, but in its delivery of the pure beauty to back up that image. In many ways, I can envision the material presented in a theater production - a Broadway play with the historical themes of each song acted out.

Everything on “Codex Atlanticus” is gigantic, so if orchestration isn’t your thing, you might want to check something else out. If you are already a Serenity fan, this album will only enhance your love for the band and the over saturated subgenre as a whole. Producer Jan Vacik did a brilliant job in both "Euro-izing" the sound to perfection and in his keyboard and backing vocal performance. The addition of Avantasia/Trillium’s Amanda Somerville on vocals is a plus – her experience and style is perfect for Serenity.

“Codex Atlanticus” may turn out to be one of the best symphonic metal albums released in a long while, with the only real competition of late coming from Nightwish and Xandria. With huge orchestration matched by crunching metal riffs and backed by Neuhauser’s indelible voice and love of history, the album presents Serenity at its absolute peak and is a must buy for fans of the band and the subgenre.

Highs: Well orchestrated and perfectly executed symphonic metal.

Lows: European style symphonic metal strays a bit too far for the pure metal fan.

Bottom line: Serenity reaches its apogee with "Codex Atlanticus."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)