Thy Majestie – ShiHuangDi
There has been much talk in recent days about the “New Wave of Progressive Power Metal,” a term coined by our own Mr. Daniel Millard in reference to the recent proleferation of… well… progressive power metal bands. While these bands are many and varied – he cites Theocracy, Dragonland, Orden Ogan, and Serenity as examples – collectively they seem to constitute a new movement in metal, one toward a new power metal with a bit more complexity than the traditional 4/4, verse/chorus/verse paradigm. Unlike the “first wave” of progressive power metal (early Savatage, Fates Warning, and the like), these newcomers have the entire foundation of 21st-century power metal on which to build, and so the listener can generally expect what to hear: modern power metal with some extended tracks, symphonic leanings, and progressive touches. They’re not exactly sailing uncharted waters, but they’re sailing shiny new ships and making it all look easier than did the haggard sailors of yore.
Perhaps the oldest band in this movement (their 2000 debut edged out Dragonland by one year and followed that of symphonic-metal forefathers Rhapsody by only three), Thy Majestie has often been discounted as something of a Rhapsody clone with a history obsession, but over the years, they’ve managed to develop something of a unique sound. While perhaps not as outright catchy as Rhapsody, they have a knack for writing memorable tunes and creating some of the biggest symphonic/choral soundscapes in metal. Both the albums I had heard previously (Hastings 1066 and Jeanne D’Arc) may be a bit slow-burning at times – making the listener wait for his or her reward – but there’s a lot going on, and everything becomes a bit more clear after a few listens.
It is fortunate, then, that the most noticeable change between the aforementioned and ShiHuangDi is the catchier songwriting (though I confess to not having heard Dawn; I’m looking forward to checking it out). The riffs are as heavy as ever, the choir pronounced as ever, the history obesession (ShiHuangDi is one name for the first emperor of China) intact as ever, but this is an easier record to get into; I could see listening to this on an everyday basis, a purpose for which my other two are a bit too dense.
However, despite this material’s being more immediate, it is every bit as deep as their previous works, and herein lies the beauty of ShiHuangDi; it takes everything that made Thy Majestie great on Hastings 1066 and Jeanne D’Arc and makes it all a bit more fun. Compositionally, every single song is a journey, dense as it is melodic and packed with both ripping metal and soaring, eastern-tinged orchestral tidbits. Even the ballad, “Farewell,” isn’t exactly (one could say “remotely”) a ballad; these guys like to mix things around, and they do a good job of it. Speaking of things these guys do well, some of these choruses (one of the trademarks of great power metal) are exceptional. Especially noteworthy are those of “Harbringer Of A New Dawn,” “Farewell,” and “Ephemeral,” any one of which could rival the best chorus on many a power metal record. Even the ending is great; “End Of The Days” ends with a wonderfully high-pitched “ShiHuangDi will never diiiiiiiiiiieeee…” thus taking the band on to the beautiful closer “Requiem.”
As difficult as Thy Majestie’s music has always been, they’ve always seemed to be a dependable group in the world of symphonic power/prog. metal, and so it really is a joy to hear ShiHuangDi; not only do they keep getting better, but they also keep becoming more and more accessible. God bless these guys.
Tom’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5
(I apologize for the lack of video; none of the songs are online yet.)