In around half a day, I will be sitting on the inner edge of a cyclone of similar strength to Hurricane Katrina. As I'm being blown away, however, I will feel comfort in knowing you too will be blown off your chair at the majesty of this album.
It's not often that a band's first album can be considered as near perfect as an album can be. Some that spring to mind are Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells
, Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True
, and Pink Floyd's Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
. With this album, Lost Horizon joined such exalted company, and they did so in style.
Stagnation of an entire genre is a terrible thing. Not only is it hard on the fans, but it also ends in the death of that genre, as we saw with grunge in the early '90s. In the entire scope of metal, there are two genres in such danger. Black metal is the most obvious, but there is also the plight of power metal, which exists in a subversive undercurrent that permeates through almost every band.
With the exception of a notable few, the late '90s were a generic time for that most heroic of all metal styles. Rhapsody's attempts at their self-named "Hollywood Metal" were only a small rock in a tide of stereotypes that crashed into fans everywhere. The pervasive idea that power metal needed to be fast, high pitched and simple, with at least one mention of a dragon per song, was everywhere, and the result could be heard in most bands, including the big mainstays of the genre: HammerFall and Stratovarius were perhaps some of the biggest culprits.
The prime era of Running Wild, Helloween and Blind Guardian seemed a distant memory to fans of power metal. A breath of fresh air was needed desperately, and ultimately it was a reformed band that blew the gale of innovation.
For four years in the early '90s, a band named Highlander toured Sweden to some success. After it was broken up by mutual consent, two of its members would go on to power metal giants HammerFall. The others would fly under the radar for some time, before emerging in 1999 with a new name and a new direction.
The four members of the time: Wojtek Lisicki, Martin Furangen, Daniel Heiman and Christian Nyqvist were dismayed at the state of the world, and believed that only a great truth could unite the world, and ultimately save us all. And the best way to preach this gospel was, of course, the music of power. In furtherance of their cause, the quartet would become Transcendental Protagonist, Cosmic Antagonist, Ethereal Magnanimous and Preternatural Transmogrifier, and named themselves the true saviours of metal.
A grand claim indeed for a band that was yet to be signed, or record an album.
Yet, in 2001, courtesy of Music for Nations, the proof of their declaration was delivered, in the form of Awakening The World
Opening with thunderous accompaniment, The Quickening
begins this album in magnificent fashion: with music that sounds exactly like its implication: a journey through the cosmos towards the ultimate truth.
Succeeding this intro is perhaps the album's strongest song: Heart Of Storm
. Displaying the band's amazing levels of musicianship, this song features enough riffs to make a progressive metal band jealous, combined with the speed and verve that makes good power metal great. From the hell catchy chorus to one of the best basslines of any metal song, this album is only rivaled by the third track Sworn In The Metal Wind
Beginning with Heiman's amazing wails, this song never lets up. The twin guitar solo, reminiscent of Priest or Maiden in their glory, does not drag on despite its length, and the bass interlude is pure ecstasy for the ears. Though the drums are impressive here, Nyqvist outdoes himself on World Through My Fateless Eyes
. In my opinion, the most lyrically important track of the album, it is another song that can only be considered brilliant.
Although these above songs all happen in the first half of the album, along with the beautiful instrumental Song Of Air
, do not despair. The second half is not the abysmal hellhole which seems to be all to common in albums that open strongly.
The band goes from strength to strength. Melding well to produce excellent songs on Perfect Warrior
, and Denial Of Fate
, which are some of the heaviest songs on the album, they then display Lisicki's talent on guitars, and Heiman's awesome range on the lyrically supreme Welcome Back
The album closes on the epic The Kingdom Of My Will
. Almost a summary of the album, it contains the aggressiveness of the first 4 songs, and the thoughtfulness of the remainder. With vestiges of Nyqvist's work on World Through My Fateless Eyes
, Lisicki's mastery on Welcome Back
, Heiman's intensity on Sworn In The Metal Wind
, and Furangen&'s thunderous basslines on Heart Of Storm
. In the song, we also see the glimpse of their future epic Highlander (The One)
from A Flame To The Ground Beneath
, which is a very good thing indeed.
Tying things up with the instrumental The Reintergration
, this album can only be considered successful in its primary purpose: to entertain. Its secondary mission, however, can also be considered complete, because in me they have a convert to their philosophy of truth and justice. As a self-help guide, this album far surpasses Chicken Soup For The Soul
. But its innovation, its soul, its musicianship is what makes it one of the best metal albums of all time, and the reason that Lost Horizon can truly be considered the saviours of power metal.