Spellblast – Nineteen
Spellblast – Nineteen (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Spellblast is an anomaly amongst modern power metal bands in Italy, it seems. In 2007, they surfaced with a smashing debut in Horns Of Silence, which featured a number of messy but stupendously hooky and charismatic tunes like “Lost In The Forest”, which garnered them a cult following from around the world. However, with the release of Battlecry in 2010, the band didn’t at all grow in popularity. In fact, if anything, they submerged a bit.
Bringing us back to the present day, the band opted for the increasingly popular crowdfunding approach favored by a number of unsigned bands in order to bring about its third album, entitled Nineteen. Fair warning up front: While I own and fully intend to read the series soon, at time of writing this review, I have no knowledge of Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga, upon which this album is based. Therefore, I will be assessing it only from a musical standpoint.
Perhaps the biggest change in musical style throughout Nineteen is the general gravitation away from the band’s old folk melody-infused style of power metal, and towards a more mid-tempo, narrative style (this is after all a concept album, unlike the last two, and it’s very clear that the story is important to the band). The wild and somewhat sloppy approach that will always remind me of Elvenking’s Heathenreel was subsiding already on Battlecry, and here it has all but vanished. Daniele Scavoni’s vocals are lower, huskier, and his pronunciation of English is markedly better than ex-frontman Jonathan Spagnuolo, and this change is a very noticeable one. Scavoni does not make attempts to stretch his voice up too far, and is decidedly comfortable, if somewhat static, in his range.
Now, this change in style does have some implications for the album and its enjoyment. Spellblast has never held back on earthy instrumental sections, but this time around they’re a bit more mundane (at least insofar as the power metal genre is concerned). I’ll be the first to admit that “Highway To Lud” and the intro for “The Reaping” certainly help the atmosphere, but gone is the pure stomping fun of songs like “Glory To The Gem” and “Drinkin’ With The Gods”. In place of these lead-heavy, chorus-focused tracks, we have song after song of rhythm guitar and drum-propelled moderation, draped in textural keys and Scavoni’s ever-present narrating second tenor.
My verdict, broadly, is that Nineteen is another good release from Spellblast, but a rather different one, and I have more reservations about recommending it. If I were into the story behind this, I could easily see it being this year’s equivalent of Lucid Dreaming or Bane Of Winterstorm in terms of exciting narrative power metal, and power metal fans who love Stephen King will probably have their own special take on this. However, while Nineteen is certainly a more organized and professional version of the Spellblast that I’ve known and loved in the past, only the opening song “Banished” succeeds at getting me near the euphoria of past albums based upon music alone. It’s pace is slower, however, and I can understand how that might quickly become “plodding” for some people, as there is little variation throughout the album.
Nineteen is very good, a qualified entry in the young genre of story-invoking power metal, but it doesn’t stand up to the band’s back catalog in terms of sheer memorability and sing-along fun. I recommend this for fans of The Dark Tower series, those interested in conceptual power metal, and with some reservation, to fans of the band’s older work. This is bound to be a grower, and nothing grows nearly as well without a lyrics booklet, so be sure to have it in hand!
3.5 // 5