NZM – Eternal Fire
NZM – Eternal Fire (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Over the last half a decade, US power metal has really been coming into its own. Not only has the field diversified tremendously and spawned dozens of capable acts, many of which have begun to form international fanbases, but the overall quality and creativity seems to have improved as well. Welcome NZM (short for Nick Z Marino – Serbian Malmsteen vocalist and keyboard player), a project that pulls together the talents of Marino, Chilean guitarist Ghee-Yeh (known for his work under that name), and Floridians Jason Moshen and Mark Ellis (on bass and drums, respectively). While at first blush this might seem to be yet another Malmsteen-clone in the making, especially given Marino’s involvement, there’s a bit more to the story.
The NZM label looks to simply be a shortening of the project’s name, as Eternal Fire seems to be more or less a direct follow up to Marino’s 2010 solo album Freedom Has No Price, but with a dedicated group of instrumentalists to assist Marino’s mission to wail his heart out – and wail he does. This guy has a very distinctive tone to his voice, and hits the upper register with an impressive wallop that demonstrates why he was chosen to accompany the great Yngwie in the first place.
That said, I find Marino and company’s approach to be considerably more digestible and interesting than the iconic Swede’s. Eternal Fire is filled with everything from power ballads to soulful guitar solos, and naturally, racing shred passages. For fans of capable but approachable neoclassically-tinged power/speed metal with stratospheric vocals, this album is really going to hit the spot. I generally am looking for a little more complexity and/or outright melodic lethality in this arena, and in at least one remarkable instance, NZM provides exactly this.
The eponymous opener is a burner that kicks off this album in exactly the way I anticipated it would – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. High-energy and capable, the album seemed to be resolving itself into the kind of work that I really enjoying hearing once or twice, but never really bother going back to. Almost immediately, “The Force Within” proved me wrong, delivering a more melodic, Swede-flavored tune that calls Dionysus to mind as much as anything that Malmsteen has ever written, right down to vocal lines that I could easily hear the now-gone Olaf Hayer singing. These two and the stomper “I’m In Your Blood” are merely tenderizing, warm-up punches, however. The brilliant masterstroke of the album is delivered on track four with the all-too-quickly come and gone “The Land Of The Rising Sun”. Boasting some excellent shred, great vocals, and a chorus as good as anything I’ve heard all year, this tune really takes the cake.
Unfortunately, after burning so brightly for a few songs, I perceive most of the second half of the album as paling in comparison (especially containing three ballads), though even the closing, piano-laden “Life After Life” is a capably dramatic, emotional closer. Still, Eternal Fire’s handful of outstanding songs make me want to encourage even listeners outside this particular power metal niche to give it a go. Fans of Marino, Malmsteen, Ring Of Fire, and speedy neoclassical work in general have my assurances that this one is solid.
3.25 // 5