Since I discovered Power Quest, I've been absolutely nuts over them. Every one of their albums has entertained me thoroughly (except for the lackluster song “The Message”) and I hold Steve Williams to be something of a melodic genius. Like most fans of the band, I was pretty concerned and sad to see the old members depart (especially considering the ample talent of Alessio Garavello), certain that the sound of the band would change drastically with the departure of everyone but Williams. However, it seems that he's gotten some pretty significant talent to replace the departed Italians. Williams has at last built a primarily U.K.-based outfit that should serve him much better for touring and recording purposes.
Power Quest has a distinct reputation for being extremely flowery and happy. On their last record, Master of Illusion, Power Quest somewhat forsook this path for one of more gravity, and it came back to bite them a bit, since some fans didn't care for the transition and variety. Simultaneously, the band didn't garner too many new fans with the release (for the record, it was and is my favorite PQ album to date). This caused some frustration and while Steve Williams had considered calling it quits, I'm bloody happy he didn't after hearing Blood Alliance.
As anticipated, this isn't quite the same sound. The listener immediately gets slammed with a heavy guitar assault with “Battle Stations”, a fast instrumental tune that seems to be the band's statement of just how things are going to be this time around. As it fades out, the equally guitar-heavy (and quite appropriately-titled) “Rising Anew” charges in with its superb hooks and fatal chorus. Chity Somapala proves that his voice does indeed fit the Power Quest formula. Despite his deeper tone, he's easier to understand, and is able to pull off the vocal slides and melismas that Williams seems to demand from his frontmen. Of everything on this album, it is probably Somapala that I'm most pleasantly surprised by, as I haven't found his prior work particularly stunning.
While the first couple of tracks are decidedly meatier in sound and more guitar-driven, “Survive” calls to mind Power Quest songs of old with heightened focus upon the synthy keyboards. In general the keyboards are downplayed, with the lead guitar taking many more of the hooks and lead lines. However, the melodies are extremely stylistically similar to the band's old work, and clearly of the same mold. Despite the change in instrumental focus, the sound has returned to a less-varied sort, typical of the band's pre-Master of Illusion catalog.
My favorite tracks here are the instrumental opener, the longer self-titled track, and both “Survive” and “Sacrifice”. The band generally maintains a very upbeat atmosphere with the exception of “Crunching the Numbers”, which means that the band will largely appeal to the same audience as before. However, I think the newfound guitar emphasis and lower-ranged singer will gain the band new respect, as well as gather in some of those who may have found their music previously unpalatable. Meanwhile, past fans of the band's work who are jumping up and down to get their hands on this album will not be disappointed in the least.
Blood Alliance is a great return from a talented band and songwriter. I'm pleased with my decision to get an early Korean pressing of the album, and this is likely going to end up on my end-of-year list for 2011. Look into this album right away if you're a fan, or even if you found them a bit too fruity before. Steve Williams and company provide another outing of smashing talent and great fun!
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The Protagonist's Rating: 8.25 out of 10
Sadly, there are no full songs on YouTube for this album as of yet. Check my recent album of the week post for the full album teaser. Or just buy the darn thing.