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Solar Fragment - "In Our Hands" (CD)

Solar Fragment - "In Our Hands" CD cover image

"In Our Hands" track listing:

1. In Our Hands (5:15)
2. With Empty Eyes (4:41)
3. Inside The Circle (5:03)
4. At The harbor (0:51)
5. Race The Seas (6:10)
6. Come Hell Or High Water (5:30)
7. Homecoming (5:20)
8. Moana’s Return (4:23)
9. The March Of The Golems (4:57)
10. Once Again (5:22)

Reviewed by on April 25, 2011

"...while 'In Our Hands' isn’t front-to-back-muscular without the needed two-pronged consistency and excellence, this still growing band does scrounge up some transcendent moments."

Solar Fragment is an up and coming classic German power metal band, so let’s get this out of the way right off the top – the act isn’t as good as Blind Guardian. But just like there are fine footballers that still can’t match Lionel Messi, Solar Fragment has plenty of room to be successful, even if the group never escapes the Bards’ behemoth shadow. So the overall verdict for Solar Fragment’s second long player is decreed thusly: just like an adolescent riding a hormone rollercoaster it is a fun, yet inconsistent, affair.

For a practically unchanging genre like power metal (more on this later), songwriting and performance are the keys to success; DragonForce, Hammerfall and (of course) Blind Guardian are all leaders of the genre because they combine tons of one with plenty of the other. The only standout performance on “In Our Hands” comes from vocalist Robert Leger – he is definitely a Hansi Kursch disciple, but Leger’s pipes are broad with confident delivery, and his mid-range croon has a unique timbre that is simultaneously engaging and tough. The rest of the band members are certainly competent and they find peak moments here and there, but none of the instrumental performances will stick to your ribs.

As far as songwriting goes, it is also a maddeningly uneven affair. “Inside The Circle” is easily the best cut on the album. Solar Fragment saved the best material for the Kursch guest spot (Hansi sings a duet with Leger on the track). It is an up-tempo power metal anthem full of inspiring riffs and leads that climb unending switchbacks, creating an exhilarating extended crescendo that makes much of Blind Guardian’s best material so exciting.

But outside of “Inside The Circle,” most of the good parts are marred by bad bits: “With Empty Eyes” is a bland by-the-numbers piece, albeit with a sublime solo. The album opener and title track is engaging, but the interlude (breakdown?) is awkward and misplaced – if it wasn’t included at all the song would be a fun four-minute basher. “At The Harbor” is a throwaway interlude that lets all the air out after “Inside The Circle,” and “Race the Seas” is a banal ballad that shows neither the touch nor the subtlety needed to keep horn-throwers engaged when using slow acoustic arrangements.

Now before I get too grumpy due to overly eager fault-finding, there are some great parts on “In Our Hands” too: “Come Hell or High Water” is a swarthy bender taking us from pirate camps on Caribbean beaches to axe battles in dark woods, and it is Leger’s finest performance on the album. “Moana’s Return”’s Savatage slow-burn earns our trust by the end despite the slow start, and “The March of The Golems” is a pretty lively fellow, working from a haunting mid-song interlude up to a fully lathered fist pump.

Power metal earns derision nowadays as a tired, overplayed, or useless genre because of its stubborn resistance to change, or even to intermingle with other metal genres. Not only is there not any blackened power or powercore floating about, but power metal uses the same instruments, song structures, lyrical themes, and musical embellishments now that it did one, two, or even Ronnie-James-Dio-in-Elf decades ago. And while “In Our Hands” isn’t front-to-back-muscular without the needed two-pronged consistency and excellence, this still growing band does scrounge up some transcendent moments. When you check back for the release of Solar Fragment’s third studio album a couple years from now, make sure you’ve prepared to have your mind blown.

Highs: “Inside The Circle” combines a powerful duet with Hansi Kursch with inspired songwriting.

Lows: “Race The Seas” is a banal and boring ballad.

Bottom line: Up and coming German power metallers show promise and inconsistency on second album.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)