Dan and Arno’s 2013 in Review: Best Comeback Albums
This is a new feature for us, and one that we thought was much-deserved after 2013’s knack for phantoms rising from the grave. This list is in no particular order, and is celebrating bands that have either returned from hiatus/dormancy, or have seen a big increase in quality over their prior album.
1) Dragonhammer – The X Experiment
Arno: Some bands make a comeback album right after or before they fade into obscurity, but Dragonhammer never left it. Treasured among genre freaks as one of Italy’s best kept secrets Dragonhammer never stretched its wings as far as the other Dragons (mainly -Land and -Force) had. Still I and many others eagerly awaited more immortal tracks in the vain of “Eternal Sinner” and The X Experiment provides plenty. Slow-burning and non-showy as we know them, Dragonhammer crafts immediate scorcers such as “The End Of The World” and “Final Solution” with a lot of grower material in the middle. We may not have heard anything as soul-igniting as “CAN YOU TELL ME WHYYYY?”, but at times The X Experiment came awfully close.
2) Human Fortress – Raided Land
Dan: Anyone with an opinion on power metal worth his or her salt will remember the raw energy and bucolic charm of Lord Of Earth And Heaven’s Heir and its successor, Defenders Of The Crown. Likewise, these people will recall the vast change in style (and, as it is generally agreed, descent in quality to an abyssal level) that came with Eternal Empire. After five years (ten, since the last *real* Human Fortress album), a renewed lineup including migratory vocalist Gus Monsanto has returned to stake its claim once more. While I’m not about to declare Raided Land album of the year, it’s a pretty good release despite some flaws, and Monsanto at the very least gives a good accounting of himself. Though this isn’t the original, long-lost Human Fortress of yore, it’s not a bad setup, and has promise for a future if the songwriting flows a bit more naturally on the next release.
3) Tad Morose – Revenant
Arno: Tad Morose is a name still hushed in underground circles lest the mainstream audience become aware of them. A cult favorite that, in its tenure with vocalist Urban Breed, released standout album after another. When a never-expected comeback was announced with the controversial Ronny Hemlin behind the mic, most of the old guard sharpened their swords and pencils to rip the Swedes’ return a new one. Hemlin-haters hated it, to no one’s surprise, as did people who didn’t care for the band striking a more straightforward note. I appreciated the dark and grandiose atmosphere enormously and Hemlin’s contribution lends the material a great power, where Breed’s was more of a mystical voice. Even though some of the core audience was alienated, I consider Revenant a welcome rebirth and will enjoy it as much as I do the old ones.
4) Silent Force – Rising From Ashes
Arno: As far as titles for comeback albums go, this one couldn’t be more obvious. After all, Revenant is something I had to look up in the dictionary despite my background in Latin. Rising From Ashes is much more clear, with Alex Beyrodt reviving his pet project (that isn’t Voodoo Circle) and taking a radical left turn. Gone is D.C. Cooper (back to his roots in Royal Hunt), and back is Michael Borman (Silent Force’s original singer). Everyone’s come home. However, the music is no longer in the occasionally progressive power vein, but in the hard rock direction Beyrodt is used to practicing with Voodoo Circle, Sinner, and to a lesser extent, Primal Fear. It lacks an element of surprise, but the commitment and passion are apparent, no one ever giving less than their best. Decidedly more German than Walk The Earth and earlier, Rising From Ashes delivers a solid slab of hard rock/heavy metal that feels safer and less inspired, but never hits below hundred percent.
5) Heimdall – Aeneid
Dan: This is a band I wouldn’t place too much blame on anyone for not knowing. Heimdall was a consistent band, soldiering in the Italian power metal underground from 1994 until a year or two after its 2004 release, Hard As Iron. At that point, the band appears to have broken up for a few years and drifted through space before re-forming in 2011 with several brand new members. So, with 9 years between releases, Aeneid definitely fits the bill as a proper power metal resurrection, but more than just that, this album is also easily the band’s most polished, powerful, and memorable. All around, Aeneid is an extremely strong release, and one that promises great things from Heimdall’s future.