Metal bands are constantly putting out new material. We follow artists and expect quality releases from them year after year. We also expect new artists to generally have to put out a couple of albums before they really hit the mark and become as good as their contemporaries. Very occasionally, we get blindsided by a new project whose work is truly excellent and unexpected. This is precisely how Instanzia's debut album “Ghosts” hit me.
Instanzia, the brainchild of one Alexis Woodbury (lead vocals and lead guitar), is of the European persuasion of highly melodic, keyboard supplemented (this is important, the keys aren't dominant), and double-bass driven power metal. The music was written and largely recorded by Mr. Woodbury as well, as the band was largely assembled during the production of the album. For a debut, the mix is quite good. The drums are reasonably solid, the vocals at the level they should be, and nothing stands out too much over another. The bass can be hard to pick out, but that's somewhat to be expected in this style of music.
As usual, I'll jump on the vocals immediately. The tone is good, and Woodbury doesn't attempt to reach outside of his comfortable range. As such, there is no straining. The vocals are not exceptional, but they are proficient, catchy, and more than acceptable. There's also a use of overlapping vocals in a number of chorus sections, which provides them an ample boost. On the note of vocals and lyrics, I want to point out that of many power metal bands for whom English is a second language (particularly in this genre and early in their career), Instanzia is one of the best I've heard in terms of grammar and pronunciation.
Instrumentally, “Ghosts” is quite enjoyable. It isn't a highly complex or virtuosic album, but makes up for this in sheer memorability. Hearkening up in spirit classic melodic power metal like Secret Sphere, Vision Divine, and Freedom Call, “Ghosts” is a largely uplifting and inspiring album. Mostly high-tempo and galloping, most of the tracks here are borderline anthemic with their instantly recognizable melodies. While not technically over the top, the album has a reasonably polished and tight feel instrumentally. Most of the time, the guitars are taking a backseat to the sweeping vocal choruses, and this is clearly a vocal-centric album at heart.
This is not dark, heavy power metal, but nor would I qualify it as quite the “flower metal” that bands like Power Quest and Freedom Call are renowned for. The songs are a bit more thoughtful, if upbeat, and are also easily comprehensible for the English-speaking listener. My personal favorites off of the album illustrate this point perfectly. The first, “A Genius Who Believes”, concerns the quest of a man determined to take to the stars against nearly insurmountable odds. It also has a great chorus.
I have to dedicate a whole paragraph to the final track on the album: the longer, more epic, and more complex “Desert Fox”. This is a bottled tale of the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his personal struggle during World War Two within the Nazi regime, in addition to his military exploits. It boasts the catchiest and most touching lyrics and melodies on the entire album. In addition to being a good deal longer than the other songs, it also contains a longer solo section than any of the others. It's also the song in which the band deviates from their standard-formula song structure more than the rest. “The Desert Fox” is an excellent tale of humanity and sacrifice, and far and away my favorite track on the album, and is becoming one of my favorite metal tracks ever.
This album is certainly for fans of the more melodic side of power metal, though I'd say anyone can and should give it a shot, as there's precious little to dislike here. The vocals are in need of a little polishing, and the band could perhaps be a bit more exploratory in their approach, but this isn't an amateurish outing by any stretch of the imagination. Very highly recommended, and a high contender for the best new power metal band of 2010.
- - -
The Protagonist's Rating: 8.75 out of 10
Originally written for The Metal Observer
Originally written for The Metal Observer