|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Tommy Johansson|
|Record Label: CMSweden/Rivel||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website: ReinXeed|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 50:47|
As a longtime follower of the Christian metal scene, I have seen my share of bands release less than stellar debut albums only to rebound with sophomore offerings that display marked improvement. Remember the progress Bride made from Show No Mercy to Live To Die? And what about Saint’s steps and strides between Warriors Of The Son and Time’s End? Recent years have found Hero (Bless This Nation to Immortal) and Rivera Bomma (Invisible Force to I Am God) making the same headway.
Sweden’s ReinXeed also deserves consideration. Releasing its full length debut The Light on CMSweden/Rivel Records last year, an album I described as “on the inconsistent side of things” and suffering “shortcomings in the area of production”, ReinXeed returns in the summer of 2009 with the CMSweden/Rivel follow up effort Higher. The album finds founding member Tommy Johansson improving upon all aspects of the recording process, including the key areas of songwriting (more consistent and with stronger melodies throughout) and production (cleaner and with the more balanced mix).
On Higher ReinXeed maintains its penchant for melodic power metal with the occasional foray into the symphonic, epic or progressive. The album is chock full of catchy, up-tempo numbers such as “Reality” and “Dragonfly” (cinematic flavorings on both) or “Haunted Mansion” and “Always Be There” (neo-classical sensibilities on these two). The albums title track takes a high energy approach while “Star Shine” brings a melodic based sound. A top of the line ballad in “Light Of The World” and progressive metal of “Heaven” add to the albums versatility.
My overall feeling is if your musical tastes trend towards Avantasia, Blind Guardian, Dragonforce, Sonata Artica, Theocracy and Narnia then you should find a lot to like in Higher.
On The Light Johansson took on a “one man project role” in he handled just about all aspect of the recording process (similar to Matt Smith on the first Theocracy album). Higher, however, finds the artist backed by a full piece band in that he has recruited two guitarist (Kerry Lundberg & Mattias Johansson), a keyboardist (Henrik Fellermark), drummer (Erik Forsgren) and bassist (Ace Thunder). Needless to say, the overall performance is impressive.
In my review of The Light I described Johansson as bringing a “wonderful melodic based voice hinting at Matt Smith but with more of a hi-end feel”. The same holds true here but with added depth and maturity to his delivery. To understand my point check out the smooth sounding tincture he adds to “Star Shine” or all out emotion he imbues “Light Of The World”. The albums title track finds him exhibiting the full range to his voice.
It also must be noted the impressive display by ReinXeed of its instrumental sound, a particular giving the group ample opportunity to showcase its abundant lead guitar and keyboard soloing abilities. Check out “Dragonfly”, a track nearly half instrumental, and “Heaven”, with its three minute instrumental opening, to full appreciate the bands adept musicianship.
As previously stated, Higher features the cleaner mix in comparison to The Light. The guitar leads, drums and keyboards are mixed to near perfection. That said, and similar to The Light, the rhythm guitar can at times get lost in the mix. You will find portions of several songs in which all you hear are keyboards and drums, leaving one almost begging for some guitar driven muscle. And that is where the only fault I can find in the album lies: an all out element of aggression is desperately needed here; if in doubt then compare the Higher rhythm guitar sound to that on Theocracy’s Mirror Of Souls and you will find a noticeable difference.
Lyrics also represent an area of improvement. While ReinXeed leaves little doubt as to where it is coming from, the group often employs allegory to get its point across. This stands out best on “Star Shine”:
Star shine guide my way to distant skies again
Heaven is right by my side
Starlight guide me tonight so I can be free
I will see You again
“Heaven” must be noted as well:
Far beyond the horizon You’re waiting there
Eternity waits beyond Your gates
Open up your eyes and witness our paradise
“Haunted Mansion” proves quintessential ReinXeed in combining sweeping instrumental portions, hi-end vocals and abundant vocal harmonies with quite the elegant chorus. The end result is a luxurious atmosphere bordering on the neo-classical. All in all a very fine effort that sets the stage for much of what is to follow.
The quality continues on “Star Shine”, a melodically driven piece featuring one of the albums better joining of guitar and keyboards. The hook here is huge – of the kind to pull you in on first listen – while the symphonic touches and lightning-like leads help it to stand out above the rest.
“Magic Still Remains” is the only track I struggle to embrace. Fast paced and up-tempo, the song might not lack in energy but fails to deliver that extra magic (no pun intended) the albums better material brings to the table. This is one of several pieces in which some aggressive rhythm guitar would have gone a long way towards putting things over the top.
ReinXeed showcases its instrumental propensities on the cinematic “Dragonfly”, opening its first minute to a majestic keyboard based introduction while breaking for a lengthy instrumental interlude at its halfway point. The momentum on this one is non-stop, reflected in its bountiful double bass and upbeat chorus bordering on the breathtaking.
The albums title track proves another high energy showstopper, smoothly racing its verse portions on the way to a chorus frenetically carried by Forsgrens’ unrelenting double bass. I particularly enjoy how “Higher” slows to a near standstill at the beginning of an instrumental section in which keyboards and guitar contest.
“Always Be There” brings some neo-classical touches (I swear I can hear a harpsichord in the backdrop of this one). The song opens calmly only to gain initiative as the rhythm guitar kicks in, initially taking a mid-paced heading prior to breaking out in spirited fashion for its fleet chorus and galloping instrumental interlude that follows.
A cinematic touch can be found on “Reality”. Up-tempo like much of the albums material, the song begins to a keyboard solo prior to rollicking its remaining distance to rapid-fire double bass as a catchy chorus and more grandiose keyboards put things over the top.
“Light Of The World” represents as heartfelt a ballad as this reviewer has heard. With keyboards and piano upholding its airy verses and rhythm guitar its touching chorus, the song finds Johansson delivering quite the stirring vocal performance- by far his best of the album. An emotional guitar solo tops things off.
Were off to the races again of “Fantasia”, a stylish track driving through its verses with classically influenced keyboards leading the way only to gain initiative for a near speed metal based chorus upheld by the groups all out raw energy. I can see Theocracy doing something like this.
Closing things out is the nine minute “Heaven”. The song breaks down into two parts. The first is the over the top instrumental opening covering its first three minutes – the overall feeling brings to mind a movie soundtrack – and the second six minutes of melodic power metal driven by stalwart riffs, lofty keyboards and just the right amount of splendor and pomp.
Track Listing: “Haunted Mansion” (5:13), “Star Shine” (4:24), “Magic Still Remains” (3:30), “Dragonfly” (4:57), “Higher” (5:42), “Always Be There” (4:02), “Reality” (5:07), “Light Of The World” (4:31), “Fantasia” (4:19), “Heaven” (9:02)
Tommy Johansson – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass & Orchestration)
Kerry Lundberg - Guitars
Mattias Johansson - Guitars
Henrik Fellermark - Keyboards
Ace Thunder - Bass
Erik Forsgren - Drums