Album Review: Holy Knights - Between Daylight And Pain
In what has been a quiet year for traditional power metal, there's a gaping hole waiting for someone to step through and become the next big thing. The mainstay bands are either in between albums, or have moved too far away from the core sound for purists, which sets the stage for someone to claim this as their time. One thing we have learned over the years is that power metal is never going to go away, no matter how much it is looked down upon by the masses. It will always exist, and even in down times, we can count on someone coming along with an album filled with giant, uplifting choruses that bring a smile to all but the most jaded.
Holy Knights picked a good time to reactivate after a ten year absence, hitting a soft spot in the power metal market, a prime piece of real estate where they can stake out a claim and reap it for all it's worth. They trot out all the clichés, pounding out a speedy album of over-the-top music hellbent on proving not every power metal band has morphed into a hybrid 80's hair band. This is straight-ahead power metal taken right from the playbook, turned out with just enough flourishes to have depth to the compositions. It's not Rhapsody, but it's more than simply chugging guitars.
Power metal has never been about great riffing and amazing musical passages. Having them is a nice bonus, but the music has always been defined by the sheer size of the songs, and the heights the choruses are able to scrape. The bigger the song, the bigger the hook, the more impressive the results. There's a saying, “if you don't go over the top, you'll never see what's on the other side.” That's the power metal mantra, and for fans who don't usually delve into this kind of music, it will come off sounding ridiculous. No more so than any death or black metal band is to the uninitiated, but still the learning curve is there.
Much of that comes from the vocals, a combination of Michael Kiske and Michele Luppi, promoting the stereotypical sound of Italian power metal. His tone never gets as shrill as Kiske can come off, but he never reaches the same level of attraction, never quite getting the listener to buy completely into the music. His melodies are big, but lack the spark that makes them ignite and burn themselves in your brain. Like many albums across all the facets of metal, it's good music while you're listening to it, but as soon as the record is over, it's hard to remember what you've just heard.
Some of that is due to the fact that the album is filled with power metal that is too familiar for its own good. Adhering to tradition is fine, but at some point there needs to be something that gives a band an identity of their own, and I don't hear enough of that. As songs come and go, there's nothing unique about Holy Knights' delivery, nothing to separate them from any of the other bands doing the same thing. Again, it's not a statement on the quality of the songs, but one of the overall package.
There's plenty to like about “Between Daylight And Pain”. Songs like “Glass Room” and “Mistery” move along with all the hallmarks you could want, offering plenty of speedy drumming and big hooks. If power metal hadn't spent twenty-five years rehashing the same musical tropes, the impact would be undoubtedly stronger. As it is, the album is a long deja-vu, too familiar to be original, but just different enough to not be a clone.
Timing can be everything for music, and for Holy Knights it's the thing that keeps “Between Daylight And Pain” from being more memorable. Even though there's an opening for power metal's next shining star, this is material that would have been huge the last time Holy Knights put out a record. The world has changed a lot since then, even if power metal never will.