Album Review: Artlantica - Across The Seven Seas
Metal bands these days aren't unlike sets of Legos. Much as kids take the little plastic blocks and use the same pieces to build anything their little minds can think of, metal bands are increasingly composed of the same members, just reconfigured in different combinations. There's a double-edged sword quality about this development, as while it is welcome to have more music being made by many of the best players in the world, there's also the threat that all of these bands will wind up watering down the scene by making everything sound like everything else.
Artlantica may not be made up of household names, but they are a band that fits the mold of having a list of past credits too long to mention in a single sentence. These are men who have long histories in the melodic and power metal realm, and with that kind of pedigree comes a certain level of expectation regarding the music they make. With such established session players as John Macaluso from the criminally forgotten Ark, and bass icon Steve DiGiorgio, the core of the band has a lot to live up to.
The album wastes no time showing what brand of metal the band is going to play, pounding out heavy riffs that belie the melodic roots of the band. The entire song serves this purpose, a heavier than usual take on power metal that is welcome on the musical front, but doesn't offer much in the way of what power metal fans are going to want to hear. The song is all about the thick riffing, with very little in the way of melody to counterbalance the solid musical bed.
Such is the case throughout much of the record. “Devout” takes a page from the traditional power metal playbook, but is missing the massive chorus the music cries out for. The title track suffers the same fate, triplet riffs giving way to a melodic chorus that is pleasing, but lacks any teeth to dig in. With this much experience, these guys really should know better than this. Melodic metal fans, even those who prefer it heavier than usual, live and die on those glorious vocals and massive hooks.
I don't want to put the blame on fully on singer John West, but I know he's capable of delivering a much better performance than he does on this album. His performance on the underrated Feinstein album “Third Wish” was everything Artlantica needs; powerful, majestic, and full of solid hooks. Here, however, he sounds great while delivering lines that barely register.
It's a shame to say, because the music the rest of the band provides is more than solid. No, there's nothing the least bit original about it, but it's hard to complain when it delivers exactly what you want to hear. Which again brings us back to the crux of the problem; the album is lacking the songs necessary to make it work.
Comparing “Across The Seven Seas” to recent offerings by any of the leading power metal bands is night and day. While other bands are writing huge songs with even more massive melodies, in a quest to be the most bombastic, Artlantica is at least a step behind. They have all the talent in the world, and they've struck a sound that has all the right elements, but songwriting chemistry is something no resume can guarantee.
“Across The Seven Seas” is an album that held massive promise, but never feels fully thought through. If I didn't know who I was listening to, I might think the band had a decent future in front of them. But knowing exactly who these musicians are, and what they've already accomplished, I was disappointed they couldn't do better. The album isn't terrible, but it's not what it should have been.