Review Summary: In their debut album, House of Spirits forge an excellent piece of power/prog metal, further enriching what late-‘80s-early-‘90s Queensryche had firstly endeavored.
The shift in decade from the ‘80s to the ‘90s found many new metal bands struggling to settle their identity within an ever changing musical environment marked by the decay of thrash, the faint (but steady) rise of progressive metal and the massive outburst of grunge. A good example of such a band was the act of Jester’s March from Germany. During their short lived career, Jester’s March managed to release two albums. The first one, titled Beyond
, was a mix of tech-power/thrash and progressive metal, while the second album (Acts
) leaned decisively to progressive metal, with melody and lyricism prevailing over aggressiveness. Both albums received moderate acclaim mainly (but not solely) due to the rise of grunge and Jester’s March were disbanded shortly after the release of their second album. However, vocalist Olaf Bilic and bassist Martin Hirsch didn’t give up, as they thought that the progressive metal element in Jester’s March had a good potential in being forged anew. They formed a new band, House of Spirits, and recruited Jörg Michael (drums) and Uwe Baltrusch (guitars) from the progressive thrash act of Mekong Delta. Their debut album, aptly titled Turn Of The Tide
serves as an excellent verification of what both members had visioned in the first place.
Turn Of The Tide
is essentially perfecting what Jester’s March left half-developed in their second album Acts
. Through the realization of a sound production that can easily serve as a future standard for melodic power/progressive metal, House of Spirits adapt more effectively to the “less-is-more” dogma of song writing, subtracting everything that might feel redundant within their brand of power/prog metal. The latter owns a great deal to what Queensryche had been up to with albums such as Operation Mindcrime
, however Turn Of The Tide
rests far from being characterized as “just another ‘ryche rip-off”. Only the gross song writing directives implemented in those ‘ryche albums are being used here, whereas two points of differentiation rest in the implementation of discrete, yet more than welcome influences from intelligent pop (check the awesome Crowded House vibe of “In My Heart”) and the keen sense of melody present in all German power/progressive metal bands. All songs are strictly mid-tempo, transmitting a unified feeling, equally torn between joy and melancholy. Their evolution is linear, with simple but highly memorable guitars and superbly crafted choruses. Although keeping the rhythm without shredding the drum kit had always been far from his standard practice, Jörg Michael does a really wonderful job in his rhythm section duties, along with the equally Doric and audible bass of Martin Hirsch. With his turn, Uwe Baltrusch refrains completely from his polyrhythmic riffing with Mekong Delta, as his guitars, either rhythm (“Keep Me from Dreaming”) or lead (“He Waited”, “The Eye Of The Storm”) are incredibly captivating. Last but not least, the excellently wailing vocals of Olaf Bilic are finally complemented with the necessary room from the arrangements, describing, through the lyrics, various aspects of human emotional distress. Every chorus he sings on the album becomes instantly unforgettable at first hearing, with songs such as “In My Heart” or “Keep Me from Dreaming” being first among equals.
It takes huge balls for a band to do what House Of Spirits have done with Turn Of The Tide
. In a period where melodic metal, and metal altogether, is being pushed towards the corner in favor of other musical movements within the rock/metal spectrum, House of Spirits are going against the grain regardless. What they have in their hands, their debut album, deserves to be let out and to be recognized, even if it isn’t on par with the current trends in rock and metal. Let’s hope that they shall be given what they are worthy of in due time.