Gaia Epicus – Dark Secrets
Despite consistently moderate reviews and relative anonymity, Gaia Epicus has soldiered on continuously since 2001. With Dark Secrets, the band’s fifth release, the band is serving up the same sort of power metal that we’ve heard from them for years (if you’re not acquainted, I would say that mid-era Gamma Ray or Helloween is a good place to start for a comparison), although they seem to have notions of some grander agenda.
Anyone who’s previously listened to the band will settle into a comfortable groove within the first few seconds of “Beyond The Universe”- a rapid-paced and guitar-charged opener which set my expectations fairly high. Solid songs like “The Raven” and “Mirror Of Truth” keep things rolling satisfactorily, and are distinctive enough to prevent redundancy from rearing its ugly head. In my experience, Gaia Epicus has never quite matched the synergy featured on Satrap, with the energy faltering at one point or another along the way. As far as I’m concerned, Dark Secrets sports a strong first half that begins to slope downhill just slightly after the very good “Lost Forever”.
With “Farewell”, however, things take a real turn for the lame. This band’s strong point has always been its fast work, and ballads often end up being a serious afterthought. “Farewell” isn’t the most awful tune ever written, but the clumsy, trite lyrics combined with stumbling pronunciation throw a serious wrench in the gears of what has been, up to this point, a fast-moving and decent album. The slower chugging of “Falling Into The Abyss” doesn’t have the strength to rouse listeners, which may not even matter, because “Last Chance” plunges into another slow, soft tune. If the lyrics on “Farewell” were grasping and stupid, “Last Chance” is even more childish and falls flat on its face while trying to deliver its highly novel message of “Humanity’s responsibility for ourselves and our world is failing”. The poor female vocals and shaky children’s choir make this song sound downright pathetic.
And at its close, my taste for the album has been somewhat ruined. The instrumental “Ode To The Past” is a fun little tune, but it tries too hard to incorporate strange elements (in this case, flute and some out-of-place synths), and mostly comes out as a muddle. By the end of the album, I find that I’ve just become exasperated with the band. With poor pacing (top-heaviness) and Hansen’s rough and inept singing, Gaia Epicus continues to shoot itself in the collective foot. Despite great energy in faster songs, Hansen continues to handicap the band with self-imposed limitations in songwriting and singing abilities. If Gaia Epicus were ever to hire a competent male vocal lead and simply leave out the pitiful attempts at ballads, this would be a band to jump up and down about. As it is, Dark Secrets is an exercise in disappointment for a supremely generic power metal band that needs no help in curbing its own potential. Diehard fans of the band will find some good songs here, but I cannot give songs other than the splendid “Lost Forever” more than a casual recommendation.
Dan’s Rating: 2.25 out of 5