|Album Title: The Coming of the Tempest|
|Artist: Eternal Legacy|
|Label: Auburn Records|
|Primary: Power Metal|
|Production: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (90%)|
|Songwriting: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (90%)|
|Muscicianship: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (100%)|
Comment: "A well-polished, refreshing debut."
+: Riffy yet melodic; well-utilized keyboards; memorable songs
-: Vocals sometimes too epic; occasional overuse of synths
The Coming of the Tempest might possibly be one of the hardest reviews I have previously or will ever do. It is an album that I have listened to since its infancy as a six-song demo and have seen mature from a well done project to one of the most polished debut power metal records I have ever heard. In this sense, my view is both clouded and more keen at the same time. On the one hand I am somewhat biased in having personally experienced the maturation of said album, yet informed enough to appreciate the albums nuances and see its more minute shortcomings.
In a genre as sometimes stagnant and archetypical as power metal, Coming of the Tempest is a breath of fresh air. As is par with most American power metal, Eternal Legacy's style on 'Tempest is of the heavier, ballsy variety in the vein of Iced Earth and Symphony X, having a more thrashy bent to their music than many of their European contemporaries. That's not to say that Coming of the Tempest lacks melody; quite the contrary - this record is oozing with it.
Let's start with the six (and seven!)-strings. Oh god, the guitars. There's no doubt about it, The Coming of the Tempest is a guitar-driven record. The riffs are heavy and the solos are enough to make Yngwie-clones cream their pants. Jason Vanek's rhythm guitar is very muscular and prominent in the mix, which is by no means a bad thing. While not necessarily wearing his influences on his sleeve, Jason's palm-muted, stuttering guitar style is very reminiscent of Jon Schaffer and James Hetfield, especially on songs like "Shadow of Revolution" and "Metal Anvil" (both reworks of songs from the pre-Eternal Legacy, Iced Earth-inspired band Mercinary). Again, this is definitely a plus for the music and serves to add an aggressiveness otherwise lacking in keyboard-infused power metal.
As people who have seen him will tell you, Shaun Vanek's leads and solos will not disappoint. Many power metal guitarists can shred... and that's about it. Only 21, the younger Vanek carves out his own unique style that is certainly virtuosic, yet not overly 'wanky' or indulgent, eliciting comparisons of the late 'Dimebag' Darrel. His solos consist not merely of fast runs and arpeggios (though those are indeed there!), but a more emotion-evoking rollercoaster ride that retains many properties of the main melody and does not sound like a stock cut-and-pasted shred solo. His mastery of the instrument is truly evident.
The next most prominent feature of the record is its generous use of keyboards. Ordinarily, this would come off as cheesy (Sonata Arctica) or gimmicky (Dragon Force), yet somehow is pulled off to surprisingly good effect, especially in the futuristic-themed song "Cyberplague". Don't misunderstand me, however; Coming of the Tempest has its fair share of effects that will appeal to the video game generation, but are executed much more tastefully than the aforementioned Dragon Force (despite sharing a few of the same effects). Technically, Spencer Phillip's keyboard breaks go toe-to-toe with Shaun's lead guitar work and often finds himself tastefully harmonizing and trading off solos. If anything, it is the almost-cheesy-but-not-quite synth breaks that will get stuck in your head once the album is done spinning (see "Rise of Daemon").
The drumming is fortunately not standard power metal affair, either. Yes, there is a fair dose of the typical double-time, 'double bass and snare on the off beat' going on, but more often than not, Steve Dukuslow's stickwork is much more varied and progressive, utilizing different feels and an array of drags, flams, and other various embellishments. In a nutshell, the drums do what they are supposed to do and do it well: they fit and compliment the other instruments going on around them.
Do I ever mention bass? There are a few nice slaps and Seinfeld-reminscent moments, but other than that, lets move along.
No matter how proficient these young musicians are at there instruments, their talents would all be in vain were it not for the excellent songwriting going on. As with many successful bands, the songwriting is largely the machinations of Jason, and to a lesser degree, Shaun Vanek. Although it goes against the 'no "I" in team' mentality, the fact is that the less opinions flying around during the writing process, the more unified and cohesive the end product sounds. This approach certainly shines as each song seems to have its own identity on the record, especially the tracks recorded closer to the final pressing of the disc where the Vanek brothers had begun to mature more as songwriters. Were it a lesser band, I would have a hard time remembering more than two songs from a given album, especially in a day and age where music is so formulaic. Eternal Legacy harkens back to bands with great songwriting like 80's era Metallica where the songs are characteristically a particular genre, yet are so well-crafted that they transcend that genre can be named and remembered by something more than merely the chorus lines.
The record is extremely well-produced for a debut album, let alone one that is self-produced. Again, the kudos here go to Jason Vanek, the tyrant, err, fearless leader of Eternal Legacy. Again, the one-man approach works extremely well. Jason knew how he wanted this record to sound and put in many hours making it a reality. In total, the songs on this disc were recorded during a span of almost five years, with only the final vocals recorded at the same time - a surprising fact given the coherent sound, production-wise, that every song on the record has. Make no mistake about it; no punches were pulled on this record. Reel-to-reel recorders were used to record the later tracks and as much analog equipment as possible was used to give the album a warm, vintage sound while still being razor sharp. My only gripe with the production is the drums. The bass drums are not nearly punchy enough for such layered music and are, at times, almost inaudible within the vibrant mix. The snare and toms also come off as a bit 'splashy' sounding, and find themselves buried amongst the wall of guitars and keyboards.
This is a great album. Period. No qualifiers. This is not just a great album because the members are so young. This is not just a great album because it was self-produced. This is not just a great album because it is coming from America and not Europe. This is not just a great album because it is a debut. Having no other knowledge of the album other than what you hear from your stereo, one can fairly judge this album as heavy, memorable, and epic all at the same time. Check this band out before they start selling out arenas.