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Forcentury - "Vanguard" (CD)

Forcentury - "Vanguard" CD cover image

"Vanguard" track listing:

1. Land Of Mirrors
2. Through The Eyes Of Thunder
3. Speculator
4. Rise Of The Machines
5. Bottom Line Zombies
6. Valhalla's Call
7. Love And Honour
8. Son Of Poseidon
9. The Abyss

Reviewed by on February 21, 2010

"With 'Vanguard,' Forcentury puts the power in 'power metal,' never forgetting that rocking out is every bit as important as showing off the band's incredible technical skill."

With its reliance on warp-speed solos, symphonic keyboards and soaring vocals, power metal can sometimes feel a little inconsequential compared to the grind 'n growl of thrash, death and metalcore. Rest assured, that's not the case with Forcentury's "Vanguard," an album that combines the gloss of power metal with enough grit to keep metal fans of all persuasions interested.

The album wastes no time in showing you that these guys have chops to spare. Drummer Jonas Landt and bassist Iver are the first two members of the band to make their presence known on the opener, "Land Of Mirrors," locking down a groove that nears thrash territory. They're joined by guitarists Marc Masters and Jens-Christian "JaCK" Kijne and keyboardist Andreas Palsgard, who keep the thrashy vibe going until the power metal chorus. One of the most pleasant surprises came during the extended solo break, when Palsgard gives the symphonic sounds a break and joins right in with the guitars, rocking the hell out in true Jon Lord style.

The most traditional power metal element in the band is definitely singer Johnn Thunder, who brings an operatic style to the proceedings. If there's just one small quibble to be had with that, it's just that his approach isn't as varied as the rest of the band.

The disc is definitely a front-loaded affair with the best tracks hitting hard and fast early on. "Land Of Mirrors" is followed by "Through The Eyes Of Thunder" and "Speculator," which have a similar style. The first drop in quality comes with the predictable "Rise Of The Machines," which slows things up and gets a little cheesy on the lyrics front.

Fortunately, it's followed up by the superb "Bottom Line Zombies," which sees the band abandoning the sci-fi and fantasy lyrics so common in power metal to offer up commentary on 21st century corporate culture. That's secondary to all the rocking out going on, but it shows yet another way in which the band is trying to extend the boundaries of power metal.

We head back to metal mythology for "Valhalla's Call," an ode to Norse warriors. It's a different kind of battle axe that gets a workout here, with some nice solos and fills that make the otherwise average tune about guys "from the North" with "their blades of steel" stand out. Plus, it's a real head trip when the band suddenly shifts gears and features slow piano played by Palsgard.

The ballad "Love And Honour" isn't terrible, but it definitely isn't a showcase of the band's strengths either. "Son Of Poseidon," which follows it, offers an interesting bluesy solo and some good stop-and-start stuff near the end, as well as some fast, thrashy parts that are a lot of fun.

"The Abyss," which ends the album, is an OK track, but takes far too long to get to the vocals. It definitely gives us another chance to hear the variety of sounds this band can crank out, and that's definitely not a bad thing. Also, a wah-wah-soaked guitar part at the end rocks mightier than anything this side of Thor's hammer, I can't complain too much about it.

The production on this disc is fantastic, though there are a few moments when Johnn Thunder's vocals could be a little more prominent in the mix. "Vanguard" sounded great on my tinny headphones to my high-end stereo.

With "Vanguard," Forcentury puts the power in "power metal," never forgetting that rocking out is every bit as important as showing off the band's incredible technical skill. Metal fans of all stripes are going to find something to love in this album.

Highs: "Land Of Mirrors," "Bottom Line Zombies," and "Through The Eyes Of Thunder."

Lows: "Love And Honour" and "Rise Of The Machines" both lag a bit.

Bottom line: A superb, high-energy power metal album.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)