Much as I’ve always been fond of power metal, the genre has fallen upon adversity in recent years. Its worldwide popularity appears to have waned, most of the innovators and leaders of the style are no longer at their peak, and it has become all too rare to come across a new power metal release that really captures the imagination. (Oh, I know bands like Orden Ogan are thriving, both commercially and creatively, and I love the likes of Seven Kingdoms, Blazon Stone and Silent Knight, so please don’t take this as some kind of blanket condemnation of the genre.) Enter Evertale like a welcome wind from the north to inject freshness and excitement into the too-often staid and stale power metal world. After a well-received 2013 debut, Of Dragons and Elves (not a very subtle title, eh?), the German quartet returned in late 2017 with The Great Brotherwar. Any doubts about Evertale’s stylistic bent are quickly eradicated by perusing the digipak CD and booklet. Andreas Marschall cover painting? Check. Fantasy lyrics about knights and dragons and hammers and kings? Check. Van Canto cover version? Check.
What the packaging won’t tell you is how fantastic The Great Brotherwar really is. Evertale have closely studied the German masters (early Blind Guardian principally, but also Gamma Ray, Iron Savior, Orden Ogan and Savage Circus), and have released an album that can go toe-to-toe with any of them. This is classic guitar-driven (and largely keyboard-free) power metal from the German school, loud and proud, oozing with class, bombast, lightning-fast riffing, pummeling double-bass workouts, majestic melodies, swelling choirs, and monstrous epic choruses that drill immediately into your head and will have you singing along and raising your fist in no time. Vocalist/guitarist Matthias Graf possesses an optimal voice for this kind of music, with a roughness, expressiveness and charisma that is very much in the tradition of young Hansi Kursch, Jens Carlsson (Persuader / Savage Circus), the guy from Freternia and even Joe Liszt (Ancient Empire). Graf and his guitar partner, Matthias “Woody” Holzapfel, do a fantastic job with the speed riffs, the Olbrich / Siepen style melodies, and the memorable themes and harmonies. There appears to be a fantasy concept running through the lyrics, and the album begins with a spoken-word, sound-effects battle scene about no retreat, no surrender and no tomorrow (somewhat reminiscent of how Blind Guardian kicked off Nightfall in Middle Earth). The eight original compositions (there are also four instrumental / intro pieces) are of uniformly stellar quality, each being a glittering example of kick-ass power metal, with every nuance and detail ringing true as a sacred blade forged in iron and steel. I love them all, but if I could only pick one, I’d take “For the King and the Crown,” which slays me every time with the “We are the grey – GREY – wardens!” part. The full-instrumentation cover of “Take to the Sky” (perhaps Van Canto’s finest hour, if you ask me) is the icing on the cake, demonstrating how, gimmick aside, Van Canto’s music works because they write killer metal songs. Production-wise, the album sounds great too, particularly the choir parts, which are expertly done and deliver an epic melodic payload alongside the punishing drums and ripping guitars.
The caveat to all of this effusive praise, of course, is that there really isn’t much originality on display on The Great Brotherwar. If the idea of a young band paying homage to the likes of early Blind Guardian and Savage Circus at a ridiculously high level of proficiency is offensive to you, then don’t listen. For everyone else who enjoys the aforementioned bands, The Great Brotherwar is nothing short of mandatory listening. Evertale have categorically proven that European power metal is not dead. Even after all these years and so many disappointments by once-great bands, it is still possible for a new German power metal album to send shivers down your spine, knock you on your ass, and transport you to faraway realms and distant battles with dragons and kings. Make no mistake: The Great Brotherwar just might be the finest power metal album from 2017. It’s not easy to find NoiseArt releases in the United States, but this one’s well worth the time and expense of tracking down.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~