In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
If there’s a theme to this edition of Second Circle, it’s that I’m so bogged down trying to get my usual massive and way overdone end of year list(s) ready that I can’t find the time to do proper in-depth reviews for both of the albums featured today. Which happens to be the latest from Hammers of Misfortune and Arrayan Path.
So let’s do this.
– – –
It’s been six long years since 2016’s phenomenal Dead Revolution, and I was expecting the usual tweaks in evolution from John Cobbett. What I wasn’t expecting was the straight through technical thrash approach Overtaker serves up. Although a lot of the usual suspects show up in guest spots, this feels like a bit of a re-invention for the band, taking equal influence from Cobbett’s time in VHOL channeled through the discography of Mercyful Fate. Both the opening title track and follow-up “Dark Brennius” serve up riff after riff dressed in spooky attire, with layered vocals that sit in the upper registers, screeched with a vitriol that emphasizes the overall thin production.
That production, intentional as it may be, is the main thing holding me back from Overtaker. When you’re moving at a tempo this consistent across a record it feels like there’s little to hold onto, and great as some of the musical ideas are (I really like the syncopated riff that closes the final minutes of “Vipers Cross”) they lack a weight that would really give them some impact. The doubled vocals leaves a little to be desired – it wasn’t until “Outside Our Minds” that I really started to dig into and vibe on what vocalist Sigrid Sheie was bringing to the album. I dig what Hammers of Misfortune are bringing, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wistful for the more progressive rock of the past.
Greek (by way of Boston) power metallers Arrayan Path are no stranger to Nine Circles; we’ve featured them numerous times throughout the years, and their 2018 album Archegonoi made our list for the best power metal of the year. Somehow I missed 2020’s The Marble Gates to Apeiron, so when news that Thus Always to Tyrants was inbound I grabbed my chance to see what dramatic heights I’d been missing the past few years. A lot, as it turns out: everything I liked about the band from the great vocals, progressive riffing and penchant to draw outside the lines of typical power metal are all present and accounted for, but in taking on their first concept album detailing the life of King Evagoras of Cyprus they’ve really honed in on the songwriting, creating a fantastic and powerful album that stands as a highlight of their career to date.
The band have always excelled at the more mid-paced, methodical rockers that accentuate their technical execution and provide enough space for vocalist Nicholas Leptos to put his incredible voice to work. But when they want to speed it up they’re more than capable: “The Usurper” gallops with the best of them, but Thus Always to Tyrants really shines in those majestic moments, whether it’s the early epic “The King’s Aegis…They Came From the Taygetos Mountains” or the way the keys accentuate exotic melodies on “of Royal Ancestry” Arrayan Path have once again carved out a classic metal album that will more than satisfy those of the power persuasion.
– – –
Until next time, keep it heavy…keep it safe.