Arion – Last Of Us
Arion – Last Of Us (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
Arion is a young Finnish metal band playing a fairly hyperactive, bombastic, and remarkably catchy brand of power metal, and one that hooked me with the first song that I heard. While I am a power metal fan at heart, I have always done a lot of drifting around, and only seem to find time to keep up with the bands I already love, as well as keeping an open ear to the most excessive new acts like Pathfinder and Gloryhammer. Bands willing to push the style to its extremes keep the horns up and the heads banging, but sometimes the tongue gets forced a bit too far in cheek, and I appreciate Arion’s more earnest approach.
If I had to compare Arion to other power metal bands I know, I would say it reminds me quite a bit of Celesty’s early albums (before the orchestra completely took over on Vendetta), mixed with Ecliptica- and Silence-era Sonata Arctica. In particular, Arion’s vocalist shares a strikingly similar timbre to Tony Kakko, which really comes across onn the title track, as well as “You’re My Melody.” Unlike Celesty and Sonata Arctica however, Arion actually achieves its strongest points at a more moderate tempo. Obviously there must be some artistic itch to make this work, because it seems like every power metal band tries to do it at some point. Arion, however, has really great success on songs like “Burn Your Ship,” “Lost,” and “Out Of The Ashes,” among others.
I say this, of course, not to send our speed-freaks into despair. No matter how good at writing a catchy mid-tempo song you are, if you tried to do it for a full album, I would absolutely hate it. “I Am The Storm” is an explosive track, and there’s plenty of faster moments in the lead single “Seven”, as well as the closer, “Watching You Fall”. Arion is every bit as confident in its slower music as it is the faster material.
When it comes to “Watching You Fall”, I had originally wondered if I was getting some thrash metal influence in the opening riff of the song. It’s certainly more aggressive than most power metal bands would dare. I showed it to fellow writer Chris Foley, who aptly described it as “jackhammer riffing”, which I think is a really great description. The song mostly operates by swinging between the harsher verses, driven by the main riff, and the melodic and smooth chorus. It’s a contrast effective enough to make melodic death metal fakers like Amaranthe dream about, but without the need for snort-inducing harsh vocals over bubblegum pop synths. Except, what’s that? With two minutes left on the album, Arion’s singer, who for much of the album has been about two steps more manly than Finnish pop metal “sensation” Ari Kouivenen, breaks into harsh vocals. And you know what?, I’m going to leave it up to you to decide if that’s a bad thing or not.
Last Of Us has some really solid execution throughout, and undeniably impressive songwriting for a band so young. Even with all the bombast, there’s nothing really earth shattering or “must hear” going on, but any regular power metal reader of ours will find this worth checking into.
3.75 // 5