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THE METAL FORGE (11.09.2010)

A breath of fresh air from these Austrian newcomers

When it comes to heavy metal, Austria are no strangers to the genre, producing some great metal bands over the years. While the symphonic/gothic metal band Edenbridge would be the first to come to mind, just last year another metal band released a great debut CD, that being Crimson Cult. Now the next metal band to raise the Austrian flag is a symphonic power/prog band called Juvaliant.

The band was formed in 2003 by guitarist Robert Schnleitner and drummer Sebastian Lanser (both ex-Edenbridge), originally under the name Fallen Angel. The bands line-up changed constantly until the right match was found and stabilised. The remainder of the band includes vocalist Thomas Strbler (Crystallion), bassist Aleksandar Veic and keyboardist Saso Gacnik. Once the line-up was final, the band changed their name to Juvaliant and began their journey with a much clearer musical direction.

Work finally began on the debut album in 2006, with help from producer Jan Vacik (who has worked with other bands such as Serenity, Lanfear and Visions Of Atlantis). Inside Dreamsound Studios in Munich, Juvaliant finished the debut CD and the next task was to find a label to release it through. The first copies of the album that found their way to metal magazines and were given positive reviews, including a mention in the up and coming section of German mag Heavy, followed by a great review. Soon enough a label was found that wanted to sign the band to a long-term deal, which suited the band to a tea Enter Limb Music.

The debut release, entitled Inhuman Nature is a bold and entertaining disc jam-packed with a smorgasbord of tantalising keyboard flurries, furious and melodic guitars, big chorus, choirs and orchestras, and above-all, a fresh breath of uniqueness. When you combine symphonic metal with progressive metal, the end combination is going to be a grand bombardment of intricacy; all molded together amounting to an epic and emotional journey that will greatly excite the metal masses. The power metal infused into the mix keeps the sound grounded and not too flighty or technical, while assuring that the guitar riffs remain heavy, chunky and memorable.

While Juvaliants sound is quite their own, I do hear influences and similarities with other symphonic metal bands such as Fairyland, Symphony X, Dark Moor, Secret Sphere, Blind Guardian, Luca Turilli and to a lesser extent; Rhapsody of Fire. For a debut album, the songwriters have done an excellent job not making Inhuman Nature a mess of giant proportions, with so much going on and too much to take in; something which other songwriters have been guilty of many times before. The creative bug is prominent with songwriters on every debut, wanting to get everything theyve created into the disc, and thats completely normal. But its the good songwriters who can do that without the CD sounding too sporadic and messy, and thats one of the great things about this release.

The orchestral elements throughout the disc are nothing short of impressive, while the big choirs and the dominant and creative keyboards add further depth and appeal. While there is a prominent progressive feel in the sound, there are occasions where the guitar riffs are greatly down-tuned and distorted, giving off an eerie gothic metal clash with power metal vibe. Along the course of the album, there are parts where the orchestration really stands out and emphasises songs brilliantly, such as on the beautiful and emotional track Killing Child. While the track is undoubtedly epic (clocking in at 8:19), the orchestra throughout the song is exceptional and one of the best segments on the disc.

Not to be outdone, however, the CD closer is an 11 minute grandiose finale, with the track split into three segments. The track, entitled Cold Distance of the Universe, is very melodic and contains many neo-classical passages while the fierce orchestra has the feeling of listening to a Hollywood movie score. A lot of the 11 minutes is filled with the instrumentals, but the track itself is very well done and an excellent way to end the album.

The final piece to fall into place with this band and release is vocalist Thomas Strbler. Already implemented and successful with German power metal band, Crystallion, Strbler was a great choice to be brought into the band as their vocalist. Quite emotional in his singing style, Strbler has a vast range, great delivery and overall is well suited for this style of metal. Never giving an over the top delivery, Strblers input throughout the disc is one of experience, precision and control.

Other tracks which I felt stood out on this release includes the swift and pummeling neo-classical hit Hells Roundabout, while power dominates the heavy Gamma Ray sounding Doomsday Machine. Lastly, the brooding feel emerging from the distorted and down-tuned guitar riffs of Live to Die is just way too awesome not to mention here. Not just the guitar riffs, but the track itself is much darker than the others and gives off an entirely different emotion, and the song is a winner in my book.

Admittedly, the disc will need to be spun a few times before full appreciation and enjoyment can be achieved. As there is quite a lot going on throughout the album, coming at you from every angle, theres things you possibly may not pick up on the first time round. With that being said, Inhuman Nature is a very well crafted CD, largely entertaining and most importantly, quite fresh and original. Even though the disc is primarily keyboard-driven, there still is a massive emphasis on the guitars and the vocals are powerful, lively and melodic.

Fans of the bands abovementioned earlier in the review will revel in this release, while fans of other bands like Edenbridge, Axxis and possibly even Epica and Nightwish should have a decent amount of interest in Juvaliant and this release. Definitely a surprise packet for me, and a good one at that, Juvaliants Inhuman Nature is a bold standout for 2010. Debuts seem to be getting better and better in recent years and this disc is a prime example. No doubt, highly recommended.

Autor: Sean Dudley

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