I've noticed a trend in power metal recently, where the genre is getting fractured in a way that does no one any favors. On the one hand, there is a group of bands that are taking power metal in a darker, heavier, more modern direction. While I like some of these bands, they largely suck the fun out of the music, which is one of the things that makes power metal special when done well. On the other hand, there is another group of bands that has taken the term 'flower metal' to heart, and sucked all of the heaviness out of the music, which only serves to make it sound weak and timid. There aren't many bands left playing traditional power metal, the kind that has as much basis in Iron Maiden's history as Helloween's.
Lancer is, thankfully, one of those bands that still brings both heaviness and fun to the world of power metal. The opening “Running From The Tyrant” has pounding bass drums, chugging guitars, and a stacked chorus of vocals on the chorus, all of which brings to mind the glory days of power metal. The vocals bring Hammerfall immediately to mind, while the songwriting feels like it was ripped from Edguy's early years. It's a winner of a song, and that's before the instrumental and bridge section in the middle twists the song around with a different feeling and some clever guitar playing. It's a fine opener, and hits all the right buttons.
“Iwo Jima” follows suit, with more simple riffing and another big chorus. It sounds like such an easy formula to master, but doing power metal right is a delicate balance, because it's incredibly easy to rely so much on simple melody that the hooks gets lost, to chug away on two chords without letting the riffs ever move. These opening tracks manage to avoid both of those problems, and really shine as exactly what you would want when you put an album like this on. “Masters and Crowns” alters the feeling just a bit, with a big more reliance on guitar harmonies, and a chorus with a melody that drops in a slightly unexpected way. It takes a few times to assimilate what's going on, but once it gels, it's another winner.
They aren't all winners, however. “Behind The Walls” tries to get a bit heavier, but the chorus comes in with simple gang chanting, and there's nowhere near enough melodic bit to satisfy. It's one of those songs that feels like a rough sketch that has yet to have the details filled in. That downturn doesn't last long, as “Aton” brings in some Egyptian influences and a slower pace, which makes it stand out from the rest of the album. Much like Edguy's “The Pharaoh”, the unconventional influences and progressive structure that push it to nearly ten minutes, spark something, and result in an engaging song. The only shame of a song like this is not hearing more of this vein of songwriting on the rest of the album. It shows a different side of Lancer, one that I think they would be wise to highlight more often.
You could level the charge against Lancer that they aren't doing anything new, and it wouldn't be unfair. But power metal isn't about reinventing the wheel every time out. You listen to power metal because you want to hear some driving riffs and big hooky choruses. That never changes, no matter how much you try to dress up the details in different ways. So while “Second Storm” might adhere a bit too closely to the playbook for some people, power metal devotees will be plenty happy with what they're hearing. The people who think Edguy ruined power metal when the evolved can rest easy, because Lancer fills that void. “Second Storm” isn't going to revolutionize music, but it will entertain you. And really, isn't that what this is all about?