ShadowStrike – Infinite Power
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
The US has seen an explosion of Euro-style power metal bands in the last couple of years, the majority of them being of considerable quality. New York-based ShadowStrike is no exception, bringing forth a debut EP that can hold its own against full-lengths from both genre veterans and other surprise newcomers of this year. The band draws many easy-to-pinpoint influences but still manages to be fresh and exciting even after many listens, thanks to dense compositions, lengthy ear-catching instrumental sections, and a true love for the power metal genre that shines through in the music.
The gates are busted open with the 9-and-a-half minute “Gales of Winter.” Now usually I wouldn’t suggest that a band start an album with a 9-minute song (I’m looking at you, Melodius Deite) but “Gales” just owns all kinds of face. The first minute is brooding and builds up perfectly to the DragonForce-inspired opening solo, and then it’s pure majesty from there on out. Matthaus Krais’ vocals are… unique. I know the ellipsis might be discouraging, but hear me out. Imagine if Marc Hudson were suddenly stricken with the limited range of Billy Joe Armstrong. Yes, from Green Day. Please note, I’m saying range, not tone or style or anything like that. The choruses see Krais firing on all cylinders, but the verses can get kind of monotonous. It’s nothing too detrimental to the music, but hearing how much better Krais performs on the choruses makes me wonder why the verses aren’t more thrilling. All in all, “Gales” kicks off Infinite Power perfectly (save that weird groovy riff halfway through the song which just seems out of place). It’s lengthy, but it doesn’t drag in the slightest, and the chorus is triumphant.
The track that follows is the 9-minute “The Journey Begins.” Now, I don’t suggest that a band follow up a 9-minute song with yet another one (I’m getting that feeling of déjà vu), but “Journey” is quite simply one of the best songs I have heard this year. It takes the happy-go-lucky “let’s layer this with a bunch of Disney flutes!” mentality of Aquaria’s masterpiece song “And Let The Show Begin”, and multiplies things ten-fold. The solo really makes this song, still bringing to mind “And Let The Show Begin” and mixing in a bit more DragonForce. Even eclipsing near three minutes, the solo doesn’t waste a second, and captures this listener’s ear at each section. “The Journey Begins” is essential listening for any power metal listener.
How does one follow up two ambitiously epic songs? ShadowStrike opts to crank out a safe mid-paced tune in “Wind In The Sky,” which, while good, is kind of underwhelming after the drama of the first two tracks. It’s just not as exciting or bombastic. This slight misstep is rectified with “Storm Of Ages”, which kicks off with a chiptune intro (total sucker for chiptunes here) and becomes a blazing barn-burner of a tune with an addicting chorus. The whole thing, especially the guitar melody repeated throughout the song, sounds like something Sweden’s Insania would do, and any band that makes me think of Insania is a-okay in my book. The last song, “Last Fire World”, another 9-minute-long track (yay!), depends more heavily on chiptunes (double yay!). Once the song picks up, I’m reminded heavily of Order Of Tyr.
Hands down, this is one of the coolest releases I have heard this year. It encompasses everything I love about the power metal genre – addicting and catchy choruses, extended guitar solos, a whimsical atmosphere – and puts it into a 38-minute EP that hasn’t gotten old yet, even after hearing it over and over and over for the past couple of weeks. Get this, now.