(2017) Force Majeure: The Rise of Starlit Fires

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Artist: Force Majeure
Album: The Rise of Starlit Fires
Release: 08.09.2017
Label: Mighty Music

 

As has been rather common this year already, today we introduce yet another band whose latest album features a change in line-up. Force Majeure is one of Finland’s lesser-known power metal gems, and is now featuring an all-new vocalist: Marcus Lång. Having released a single and lyric video to demonstrate Lång’s Marco Hietala-esque pipes a massive 2 years ago, it’s time for these guys to reveal the full album itself at long last! I sat down to listen, with the phantom hovering nearby, sharing his thoughts as well.

Listen along on Spotify, if you like:

 

The first thing of note is that there seems to be a somewhat astronomical theme running through this album, with constant references to starfalls, the Zodiac signs, the planets, and other such universe-oriented things.

The album starts with “Gemini Rising”, which is a pretty solid blend of classic 80s metal and modern power metal, with its synth chants, speedy drums, and solid guitar work. Lång indeed does sound very similar to Nightwish’s Marco Hietala, and his vocals are strong, but almost a bit tentative at times, as if he’s still finding his sound and where he’s comfortable. Of course, this is his first full album as lead vocalist to my knowledge, so that’s completely excusable. Some lines feel a bit awkward, as though they were written in Finglish, but then corrected to be in proper English, but the flow of the lyrics wasn’t adjusted to match the flow of the music. This continues on occasion throughout the album.

“Apocalyptic Hearts” is a speed metal anthem, with a hint of classic power metal. The phantom faults it for being beautiful, but losing its energy in its weird and incomprehensible lyrics, which I can agree with. If you ignore the words for the most part, this is a great track for lovers of that high energy, non-stop power metal, like old Sonata Arctica, with some classic Nightwish in the synth. I give bonus points to the solos in here, done by Eemeli Ojanen and/or Jussi Reuhkala. Speaking of Sonata Arctica, next up is “Blessed by the Wolves”, which opens with some tinkling wintery-sounding power metal. This is perhaps the most diverse drumming on the album, highlighting the skill of Jaakko Nylund (who was also one of the writers, and may have been writing to highlight his own skills – bravo!).

The album’s name is referenced in “The Great Starfall”, which was released all the way back in 2014. There are some cool breakdowns in this one, with some chugging, heavy guitar nearly halfway through, and another part that spotlights Tuomas Väänänen on bass. Pretty decent for a single.

“Church of Steam” is an obvious nod to the Finnish sauna, built on the shore, where you “wash away the sins of day” in “eternal silence.” I like the cheekiness of the song’s theme, though it does unfortunately suffer from a weird lyrical turn at the end that doesn’t quite fit the rest of the song. As well, I think Lång was trying to say “for the rich and for the poor,” but it comes out as “for the rich and for the pure“… oops. Classic heavy metal guitar and drums open “Pantheon of My Passion”, followed quickly by classic 80s synth sounds. I like the flow of this one a lot, which can be credited to Ojanen as the music writer. It’s a bit more laid-back than the others, but it allows a good dynamic change in the album, resulting in a song that stands out nicely between a lot of fast power metal tracks.

“The Darkening” is, at least by my experience, one of the most original-sounding tracks on the album. Much like its name, this is also one of the darkest (or perhaps heaviest is a better word) songs on the album, though it rises and falls in dynamic nicely throughout. There’s a screaming, almost thrashy part mid-way through that comes as quite a surprise and a good change-up to the album. The song then takes a bit of a turn towards Nightwish in the end, when a creepy echoing female voice speaks the final words over the last minute or so.

The album closes up with a song about… ice fishing? Yes, you read that correctly, “Subarctic Showdown” is about ice fishing! In that context, this song is actually pretty awesome, if you consider the lyrics about “reach[ing] / into the deep”, “catch[ing] them all” (Pokémon reference likely unintentional), and “the lure of the catch.” Indeed, the phantom has said that it’s pretty obvious if you think about it. There’s a rockin’ solo and the right amount of energy to close out an album on a good note.

 

This is one of the most influence-laden albums I’ve heard in recent years. You can find Nightwish chant-synth, speedy Sonata Arctica and cheesy lyrics, Helloween-like speed and breakdowns, a Children of Bodom thrash bit, and probably many more that we couldn’t figure out. However, don’t take that to mean that the album sounds generic or ripped off – as the phantom put it, it’s very evident that they had a lot of fun making this album and there’s a clear sense of humor and perhaps even self-irony in there. However, it stumbles a few times on lyrics that don’t make any sense or don’t flow with the music’s rhythm; as well, a lot of the lyrics don’t actually match the words in the booklet, which is a shame. The production is a little low-budget overall, though this was a self-made album (the label only joined in once it was done), so that’s also no reason to dock any points. All-in-all, it’s a fun, slightly silly, and well-executed album.

Rating: 8.5/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Gemini Rising
2. Apocalyptic Hearts
3. Blessed by the Wolves
4. The Great Starfall
5. Church of Steam
6. Pantheon of My Passion
7. The Darkening
8. Subarctic Showdown

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