The fifth time around for swedish metallers Astral Doors, and it's all very recognisable. They play a delicious mix of classic heavy metal in the vein of Dio and Black Sabbath, but with a modern metal touch to it, and what can I say - I simply love the vocals of Nils Patrik Johansson, and I always will. They give such a depth and dimension to the whole thing. To be honest, without him the band would be struggling in the midsection of the plethora of bands in the scene.
The first times I listened to this album I was slightly disappointed, or perhaps indifferent is a better word, with the first couple of songs. They felt very light and standard and not really leading anywhere. Later on I have learned to like them also, but they are indeed somewhat light in the whole context. Quite a weird start of the album. From there on, however, it takes form. The coming quintet of songs takes it to another level, with Rainbow Warrior and So Many Days So Many Nights as the aces in that collection. Good energy and well composed songs in all aspects, and this is definitely something for those of you that like well played, melodic heavy metal with a classic touch to it.
The album does not lose the grip on me from that point, but instead continues with its head high to the finish, with pearls like Anthem Of The Dark, Greenfield Of Life and The Healer thrown in here and there and warrants an even quality. They still clearly have one foot in the Black Sabbath's Headless Cross-era, which is the best era if you ask me, but I personally fel they have taken it to the next and better level.
As usual, like with every other Astral Doors album, the overall level is high with a few dips, and with that I do not mean bad songs, just less good ones (Blood River, Metal DJ). This band has the ability to write songs that are somehow enjoyable to listen to even if you don't think they are spot on good. The key thing this time is an obvius work on the melodies and choruses, and it creates a good feeling throughout the album.
The album is pretty balanced with the usual handful of smokers mixed with the laid back kind of epic songs in which Johansson usually stands out. I do miss some real killers like Bride Of Christ and Cloudbreaker for example, and I don't think they will nail such killers ever again, but Rainbow Warrior, Anthem Of The Dark and The Healer are at least closing in to those.
This album is beaten by Of The Son And The Father (2003) and Evil Is Forever (2005), but it is indeed the best and most solid effort since then, outplaying Astralism (2006) and New Revelation (2007). Not by far, but it is slightly better. I don't know on which version of the album the bonus track Stockholm Bloodbath is going to be included, probably the digipack or japanese version, but try to get a hold of that copy if you intend to buy the album. It's a great song and should have been a part of the original track list.