For the past year, ReinXeed has proven to be my constant companion in the world of power metal. After discovering their most excellent 2010 release Majestic, I hungered continuously for the foretold 2011 release from Tommy Johansson and company. Once I heard Majestic and really got a chance to compare it to the band's prior work, I realized what a pivotal album it was for the group, since it represents a real maturation in sound and talent. How then, would this continue on 1912?
Some will mark ReinXeed's brand of rapid-paced, icy symphonic power metal as forgettable, trite, and lacking "balls". If you're this close-minded, I'm just ignoring you. For the rest of us with a thirst for this sort of thing, 1912 sees ReinXeed picking up just where they left off on Majestic, albeit with a more serious tone and slightly changed sound. As you might deduce from the title and the album cover, this is a concept album of sorts about the Titanic fiasco of 1912, and the story of those passengers on board. This is an interesting theme coming from this band, and I'll admit that I was surprised. However, they handle it very proficiently while dropping a fair amount of the lyrical fluffiness observed on past albums.
Ok, so it's no Sonata Arctica, but the tone of much of this album is often similar: cold and supremely melodic, yet often very lyrically sober. While past albums have had something of a "distant" tone to them (as if the group were playing at the top of a mountain a few miles away), 1912 is a bit more clear. In general, this album boasts more orchestration than past efforts, but also sees a considerable improvement in layered vocals and choruses. Occasionally, another singer besides Johansson steps briefly into the spotlight, and while these bits take a step back towards the youthful sound we've seen on previous releases, it adds interest. Johansson has one of those very smooth voices that, if singing an extended section without too many ups and downs, might lead people to nod off a bit. I don't mean to come off poorly here though, since he really belts out some excellent leads on this album, and it is his best vocal performance yet.
In general, 1912 is a bit less immediately gripping than past efforts, but it grows on you like no one's business. The general exception to this is "The Voyage", which I feel is the best song that the band has ever composed, and I absolutely cannot get enough of it. Otherwise, the album follows a churning, frigid course from boarding the ship to the aftermath of its collision with the infamous iceberg (other excellent songs include "We Must Go Faster" and the title track). Even listening casually, it's very easy to follow the story arc and the sequence of events. The trade-off, then, is less immediate accessibility and the need to listen to the tracks consecutively in order for everything to make sense in exchange for a stronger and mature album as a whole, and one that offers a fulfilling listen from beginning to end. A minor note here: the band seems to occasionally reference its own previous work both melodically and lyrically on this release, as evidenced in both "Challenge The Storm" (see "Deep Under Sea") and "Spirit Lives On" (try "Forever Carry On").
I'm surprised, really, by how thoroughly this album shakes off any number of stereotypes about power metal. Sure, it's light and the vocals are sometimes through the roof, but it's also very tight and precise, with great guitar work, excellent orchestral hits, and very strong choral sections. With this release, the band has also shed the "flower metal" label as well, so what's left and where do we place ReinXeed? At this point, they're a bit in a class of their own, since I cannot think of many bands at all that carry a similar sound with this kind of proficiency. Bowing once again before their technical expertise and tried-and-true formula, I doff my cap to ReinXeed and proclaim 1912 as one of the best experiences of symphonic power metal in 2011.
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The Protagonist's Rating: 8.25 out of 10