It warms my heart to see younger bands trying their hand at the European melodic power metal style popularized in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but largely forsaken over the last decade or so. In the interests of clarity, I’m not talking about the strain of Euro power metal featuring layers upon layers of keyboards, weak high-pitched vocals, frilly shirts and tra la la melodies. No, the kind of Euro power metal I love – and that is vastly underrepresented in the marketplace today – is the guitar-driven, stout-riffing, anthemic-chorus kind of stuff that traces its lineage directly to the likes of early Helloween, Attack, Scanner, Iron Savior, Hammerfall, early Nocturnal Rites, early Steel Attack, early Nostradameus, Freternia, Ironware, Morifade, and so on, with nods to early Stratovarius/Sonata Arctica along the way (see the song “Frozen” for some prime Strat worship, but the keyboard quotient in most of the other tracks is far lower).
Veonity is part of a new generation of bands that aims to keep that particular flame burning. The Swedes’ debut album, ‘Gladiator’s Tale,’ released last year on Spain’s Sliptrick Records quite properly turned some heads and started some buzz. Striking while the iron’s hot, the lads are already back with their second full-length album, entitled ‘Into the Void.’ A few things have changed this time around. Most notably, rather than using session vocalists like they did on ‘Gladiator’s Tale,’ Veonity guitarist Anders Skold has taken over the lead vocal duties himself. In all honesty, he does a fantastic job, with his clear, powerful, charismatic voice being sufficiently strong that it makes me wonder why he didn’t handle the lead vocals from the outset. (Probably because playing guitar and singing these songs at the same time may be hellishly difficult, but that’s just a guess.) Also, Veonity have jettisoned the gladiator concept in favor of a dystopian space-themed record about a refugee from the dying Earth who discovers new life and hope in deep space. If you’re thinking “that sounds like the kind of story Iron Savior might write,” well, Veonity apparently had the same idea because no less a luminary than Piet Sielck (the undisputed king of sci-fi themed Euro power metal with balls) appears and contributes guest vocals on one song (“Awake,” which also features a pounding Iron Savior-approved guitar riff).
What hasn’t changed, however, is Veonity’s commitment to quality songwriting, killer anthems, big swelling singalong choirs, powerful guitars and plenty of speed. ‘Into the Void’ ticks all the right boxes for aficionados of European melodic power metal. The choir-fueled choruses on nearly every song are addictive, the songs are littered with catchy melodies, fine neoclassical guitar solos appear often, and Veonity aren’t afraid to crank up the double-bass drums on a good many tracks. Opener “When Humanity is Gone” goes right into Gamma Ray “Beyond the Black Hole”-meets-Sonata-Arctica mode, which is a nice way to kick things off. In addition to being a strong tune with a massive speedy chorus, “Solar Storm” bears the distinction of lyrics that not-so-subtly namecheck some of Veonity’s biggest influences (Hammerfall, Gamma Ray, Heavenly, Freedom Call). Very clever, guys, and good for you for making the hat tip explicit. It’s always right to give credit to those who paved the way. Pre-release singles “In the Void” and “Warriors of Time” are simply monster hymns that capture the essence of Veonity beautifully, the latter channeling a certain Kai Hansen vibe circa the mighty ‘Somewhere Out in Space’ record, albeit with the big Hammerfall-type choirs. Oh, and just try to listen to the punchy, mid-paced “Heart on Fire” without singing along to that chorus. I dare you. It’s just not possible. The production job, courtesy of Ronny Milianowicz and Veonity, is very clear and clean, pristine and powerful, with the guitars and vocals out front just like they should be for this kind of music
If there’s a criticism to be leveled at ‘Into the Void,’ it’s that Veonity have made a very safe melodic power metal record that hews closely to both genre conventions and the band’s influences. I can overlook that shortcoming, however, when everything is executed as superbly as Veonity have done here. This really is an expertly conceived, written and performed European power metal album, so it’s little wonder that some corners of the Internet find Veonity awash in breathless plaudits and ovations. The other potential downside is that at 12 songs and 55 minutes, ‘Into the Void’ really does feel longer than it needs to be, and perhaps wears out its welcome before the mighty “Winds of Faith” puts an exclamation point on the proceedings. But the fundamental truth remains that Veonity have crafted an exceptional album of happy, uplifting, but still powerful Swedish power metal that is certain to warm the hearts of devotees of the style. Euro power metal album of the year? Quite possibly.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~