(2019) Metal de Facto: Imperium Romanum

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Artist: Metal de Facto
Album: Imperium Romanum
Release: 22.11.2019
Label: Rockshots Records

 

Word on the street has been that it’s time to make power metal great again, and Metal de Facto is promising to do just that. Made up of some well-known local musicians, like Sami Hinkka (bass, Ensiferum) and Mikko Salovaara (guitar, ex-Kiuas), as well as newcomers like Mikael Salo (vocals, Everfrost) and Benji Connelly (keyboards, Everfrost), these guys have already released a music video and lyric video to fantastic feedback. It goes without saying then, that we wanted to find out if their debut would truly be a great power metal album.

The album opens with the first single, “Conqueror,” which doesn’t piss around with intros but gets right into the nitty gritty of what power metal is with a big old wail from Mikael Salo. The music video came out in October, featuring them performing live, as well as rocking out amongst jet planes – not too bad for power metal. This is a nice track to demonstrate their sound, opening with riffing guitars by Esa Orjatsalo and Mikko Salovaara, and peppy keyboards by Benji Connelly.

“Legionnaire’s Oath” has a deeper, somewhat heavier sound, not unlike older Iron Maiden. Salo has a bit of the power grit (à la Manowar) when he emphasizes certain lyrics. If we’re thinking about traditional metal, it’s stylistically back in the 80s with a very less-is-more feeling. Next is “Naturalis Historia,” which goes full Helloween/Gamma Ray with the beginning guitar melody. It has a bit of the same rhythm as “Conqueror,” though I might have wanted a little more oomph in the vocal parts towards the end. However, the interplay of solos is awesome and the vocals get infinitely more interesting before Connelly gets his own solo, which is definitely one of his best.

“Inferno” begins with a strong synth sound, a bit like a simpler Turmion Kätilöt groove, followed by a bass-led melody as the vocals come in. The strong use of backing chants is really effective and the disco keyboards are shocking but seem to work (provided you don’t feel overwhelmed by them). For me personally, this song was a welcome change of pace from the basic fast beat as the keyboards take the foreground, but for those who were enjoying the first three songs, “Inferno” might be a tad too much.

Heroic melodies start off “Bacchanalia,” which (historically) were festivals for Bacchus, the god of wine and fertility. This is a straight-up live fun-time mosh party song and features the harpsichord by Connelly, entering another traditional power metal era. The chorus has a bit of a folk drinking song vibe, which is more reminiscent of Viking metal but worked really nicely within the setting. It was an immediate group favorite for us, as it nicely combined the madness of a bacchanalia party as depicted in all of the chaotically different song parts that magically work together.

Marching snare drums was a surprise intro for “Echoes in Eternity,” and we see a gentler side of Salo’s voice as he is accompanied by acoustic guitars and (keyboard?) flute sounds. There’s a hint of Stratovarius flavor in the chorus, with some slow flamenco-like guitar to follow. It has a hopeful, upbeat feeling despite its slow melody really manages to be a de facto power metal ballad. If you’re into those, this one might easily find its way onto your regular playlists. “Let the games begin” introduces “Colosseum” alongside the cheers of a crowd, which is followed by some speedy solos on both guitars and keyboards. It quickly becomes evident that this is an instrumental where the solos are facing off against one another. It takes a bit of an odd turn with an almost iskelma/tango slow part before kicking back into the instrumental battle, but they make it work.

Some fast guitars, almost reminiscent of Iron Maiden at times, carry the brunt of “Ides of March.” Relating to the betrayal of Julius Caesar, the song’s lyrics are harsh and accusatory, with swift drum breakdowns and at least one high wail. The bass-heavy revving solos are great and the church organs halfway through add a bit of a twist and break before the climax, naturally with more solos and a more relaxed outro. The second single, “The Ascending of Jupiter,” leans closer to the 00s as opposed to the 90s feel of most songs that came before, though the strong harpsichord and classic soloing keep the song elevated. It has a bit of a classic Iron Maiden/Judas Priest feel again, with the chugging rhythms and high vocals.

The album reaches its conclusion with “Germanicus,” a 9½-minute, fast-paced, storied epic with a solid, steady, speedy, and slightly-chugging rhythm. The chorus is good but perhaps a touch flat following the steady rhythm, leaving the song to lose a bit of necessary oomph. However, the song takes a surprising turn as it goes slower into Iced Earth/Demons & Wizards territory and kicks back up into – fortunately – an all-new rhythm and an epic spoken part. It then goes to fully explore musically, while touching in with dipping back to repeat earlier lines to make sure it doesn’t steer too far off course. We get gentle grooves and some pretty decent shredding, as well as a very strong guitar melody to reintroduce the vocals. It ends on a synth fade-out in the church choir style. The narrator was a bit loud in the fading mix and made me jump out of my seat a little bit the first time. Ultimately, “Germanicus” is a bit slow to start, but give it a few chances as it still has a lot to offer and takes a bit of time to digest.

 

Coming from someone who has never strictly considered themselves a fan of power metal, as well as two full-on power metal nerds, our overall reaction to this album was largely positive. For myself, the power metal appreciator-not-fan, it never got too cheesy, it never got too poppy, and it never got too thrashy with blastbeats or other speed metal elements that regularly throw off my enjoyment of power metal. With Benji Connelly on synths, I had expected a more orchestral, Stratovarius-like sound, but they surprised me by staying closer to the simpler classics like Iron Maiden and Dio, while adding the better elements of keyboards in for a modern flare.

The album also shows off new yet familiar aspects of the band members. While I can’t say I’m familiar with Esa Orjatsalo or Atte Marttinen, I do know the rest of the band members’ sounds quite well. Mikael Salo leans into a range that manages to sit between Bruce Dickinson [Iron Maiden] and Hansi Kürsch [Blind Guardian], yet doesn’t sing with the same type of emotion as he does in Everfrost. Mikko Salovaara’s solos are still absolutely awesome, and there are flickers of his folky background adapted into a new style. Benji Connelly, as I already mentioned, is playing more straightforward keyboards with less pizzazz and more fist-up heavy metal, and is perhaps the element that most evens out the traditional-to-modern sound ratio. And last but not least, Sami Hinkka’s bass sound, but also storytelling style feels present in Metal de Facto’s music. Overall, while it’s not perfect, it’s a hell of a debut and if you’re into power metal, you should definitely try this out!

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. The Conqueror
2. Legionnaire’s Oath
3. Naturalis Historia
4. Inferno
5. Bacchanalia
6. Echoes in Eternity
7. Colosseum
8. Ides of March
9. The Ascending of Jupiter
10. Germanicus

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