Signum Regis – Exodus
Signum Regis – Exodus (2013)
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
Donning a robust “cast” (usually keyword in metal for “Look how many guest singers we can round up!”), Signum Regis is back with their third contribution to the power metal world: Exodus, a concept album based on the enslavement of Israelites in Ancient Egypt. The cast is indeed impressive, featuring not one, but two former Yngwie Malmsteen singers (Goran Edman and Michael Vescera), Matt Smith from Theocracy, Daisa Munhoz from Vandroya, Thomas Winkler from Gloryhammer, and Lance King from too-much-to-list-here. Are the abundant guest vocalists used to cover up weak songwriting, or do they help make already good music even better?
It’s moreso the case of the latter, but the music still seems to be lacking a certain spark that it needs to propel itself to the heights of Avantasia and Ayreon. The guest vocalists come across as little more than hired guns, and are usually restricted to only one song (minus Lance King and Matt Smith, who each get a full song and contribute backing vocals on “Song of Deliverance”). The singers all do well in each of their songs, but are quickly gone and never to be heard from again. I would have loved to hear more from Samuel Nyman, who delivers a menacing and wailing performance as The Pharaoh, but nope. He gets just one song. I suppose I can’t complain about less Thomas Winkler. I don’t know why his voice irks me so much in everything he sings in, but it does. I can’t tell whether he tries too hard or doesn’t try hard enough when he sings, but either way, it just never sounds right to me. This annoyance is no less apparent with his guest performance on this album in the opening track “Enslaved,” which gets things off to a limp-wristed start, never mind the forced-sounding chorus (maybe it wouldn’t sound so forced in the hands of a more capable vocalist). But thankfully Mike Vescera is there to pick things up on the stellar following track, “The Promised Land.” The rest of the performances range from pretty decent to “WHOA THE PHARAOH IS AWESOME!” (seriously, Nyman’s performance here compels me to check out his main band Manimal; he easily steals the show on this album)
Despite the rough start, there are a number of solid tunes present, including four in a row from “The Promised Land” through “The Ten Plagues” which all feature addictive choruses and flashy neoclassical-inspired guitar work. From there however, things lose steam with the unnecessary instrumental “Last Days In Egypt” and the mid-paced title track, which is honestly kind of forgettable despite a pretty good performance from Lance King. “Song of Deliverance” comes across as a really corny Christian metal worship song (“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”) in spite of a good performance from Daisa Munhoz. But can any band really go wrong closing things up with a Helloween cover? The answer, obviously, is no, but bonus points to the band for avoiding not only the overused choice of “Eagle Fly Free,” but for avoiding the Kiske and Hansen eras altogether. Yeah, how often do you hear a power metal band covering Deris-era Helloween?
There’s a bit of unrealized potential here in the latter half, but for what it’s worth, Exodus is a fun little concept album with some killer tunes wedged between a bit of (well-performed) mediocrity. I do have two huge paragraphs of mostly nitpicking, but hopefully you can believe me when I say that when this album works, it works really well to produce a solid and inoffensive entry into the oddly specific subgenre of Power Metal With A Lot of Guest Vocalists, which I totally didn’t just make up.
3.5 // 5