Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Signum Regis - Decennium Primum
Musical Style: Power Metal Produced By: Signum Regis
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: Slovakia
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website: Signum Regis
Tracks: 10 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 46:30

Signum Regis - Decennium Primum

After a two-yea hiatus, Senec, Slovakia based Signum Regis returns in the spring of 2017 with its fifth full-length album Decennium Primum.  Roughly translating as ‘the first decade’ in Latin, Decennium Primum proves appropriately entitled in light of its release (independently) by Signum Regis to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its founding.  Further commentary from the group:  

“(In 2017), we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the band. In the beginning, it was a roller coaster ride, and there were times when we were not sure if we can go on, but since then many good things happened. Every new release was a bigger success than the previous one, the live shows improved and we feel strong and optimistic about the future.

“As many of you know, we also won a prestigious band contest.  One of the prizes that we won was 1000 CDs manufactured by the best Czech printing press. We are lucky to be a signed band (to Ulterium Records), but because of the prize and that our 10th anniversary is coming up, we decided that we want to use this opportunity to record a very special (album) to celebrate the anniversary and say THANK YOU to all of our fans, who have been supporting us steadily.”

Decennium Primum does not stray musically from previous Signum Regis albums in skirting European power metal territory with facets of neo-classical, melodic, traditional and progressive metal.  My favorite of the group’s early material is 2013 Ulterium Records release Exodus (85% Angelic Warlord review), which as its title implies conceptually bases itself around the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.  The album also took a vocalist by committee route in including songs fronted by Matt Smith (Theocracy), Eli Prinsen (The Sacrificed, Sacred Warrior), Lance King (ex Pyramaze, ex Balance Of Power), Daísa Munhoz (Vandroya), Thomas L. Winkler (Gloryhammer), and Mayo Petranin (Castaway).
Follow up releases from 2015, EP Through The Storm and full length offering Chapter IV: The Reckoning (both Ulterium), allowed Signum Regis to debut as its new vocalist Petranin, whom lent his brusque and earthy mid-register style to Exodus track “Mountain Of God”.  Through The Storm found Signum Regis “firing on all cylinders and upping the heaviness and energy levels overall” (noting the 80% Angelic Warlord review), while Chapter IV: The Reckoning “plays up a similar power metal basis (as Through The Storm) but takes said heaviness and energy to even higher levels” (as taken from the Angelic Warlord review, also 80%).
Signum Regis makes a seamless transition on Decennium Primum by continuing to emphasize vibrancy and a guitar based inclining within a hook-based package.  Albums initial full-length vocal cut “Unfold The Mystery” provides a good indicator of such qualities, upholding keyed up double kick drum aplenty, jazzy bass and light classical overtures in terms of guitars, which really hit hard in places.  Tying everything together is the decided catchiness to the richly woven refrain.

Previously, Decennium Primum opened to its minute long instrumental title track in which classical guitar and melodic guitar harmonies coalesce.

Ensuing cut “Damnation Ad Bestias” storms out of the gate and maintains the up-tempo sentiment its length.  If I were to invite comparison, “Damnation Ad Bestias” is tad heavier than “Unfold The Mystery”, as rhythm guitars cement themselves to the front of the mix, albeit not quite as melodic, keeping in mind it by no means trends towards the repetitive or mundane either.  I particularly enjoy the darker edges to the instrumental moments.

A melodic metal heading reveals itself on “Screaming For Justice”.  The song maintains the intrinsic heaviness - galloping riffs lead the front to back way - but in a more commercial package as keyboards accent the backdrop and thorough melody plays a defining role.  Once more, Signum Regis shines instrumentally, as Filip Koluš cuts loose with a lengthy run of intense lead guitar.

“Kingdom Of Light” receives the hard rock ballad treatment.  The song comes across lushly orchestrated, maneuvering its mid-paced distance with acoustic guitar and light rhythm guitar placed over a foundation of Ronnie König’s signature classically influenced bass.  Another extended instrumental stretch advances to tight as it gets guitar harmonies.  At this point it deserves note the impressive manner in which Signum Regis showcases its instrumental prowess on Decennium Primum.

“The Future King”, the groups take on the legendary encounter between David & Goliath, finds Signum Regis returning to its power metal ways.  With a short drum solo at the start, the song rushes its remaining span with keyboards brightening the stout verses and rhythm guitar further buttressing the cogent refrain.  Lone complaint is that the heavy set ‘long live the king’ chanting at the end is a bit overdone.   

“Well Deserved” leans towards the mid-paced, highlighting decisive neo-classical lacings in terms of the guitars but with a massive bass presence anchoring the low end, a staple to the Decennium Primum material either way.  Focused hooks help define one of the albums stronger refrains.  Another fine instrumental moment presents itself, as a bass solo gives way to some tastefully done melodic riffing. 

The acapella vocal melodies at the start to “Thunder And Rain” give way to the hard charging guitars that propel things ahead.  Rapid fire double bass proceeds to take over for the resilient verses as Petranin really reaches down low vocally, with impetus picking up further for the epic based chorus that has Theocracy written all over it.  Instrumental moments run the gamut from classically influenced guitar to ardent soloing. 

Starting appropriately to the sound of a train rolling down the tracks, “Train To Neverland” gives prominence to a no frills traditional metal heading.  It also represents the albums heaviest cut, with thickly woven guitars playing up a mid-paced focal point and the Signum Regis vocal melodies a smoother and more even quality.  No, “Train To Neverland” might not be melodic as some Decennium Primum cuts but plays an effective deep cut role nonetheless.

“A Psalm Of Life”, albums longest at six and a half minutes, reflects light progressive nuances.  The song reinforces a galloping riff driven presence - rhythm section gets quite the workout on this one - while allowing for some subtle time signatures, noting the change to a calmer direction over the final tranquil minute.  Yet, some darker emotional vestiges rise to the surface that help provide a tempering effect to one of the albums most well rounded and diverse tracks.

Production gets the job done in making guitars the centerpiece of the mix but also allowing for a basis of compact bass and adorning keyboards.  Packaging is a thing of beauty, with eye catching cover art and mini booklet to feature detailed liner notes and lyrics along with a colorful live band photo.

Whereas I hesitate to label Signum Regis a Christian band, lyrics reflect Ronnie König’s faith.  “Screaming For Justice” aptly fulfills such a role:

Do you believe that prayers
Spoken by a broken, beaten man
Are being heard in heaven?
That they’re not spoken all in vain?

Do you believe that faith in God
Can move a mountain?
Do you believe, that it can turn
Stones into fountains?
Do you believe that all evens are part of a plan?

Likewise, “Thunder And Rain” talks of walking the straight and narrow:

Take up the cross of yours
Day after day
No matter what they say
You leave the world behind

But no longer a slave
Benn forgiven, forgave
Soul’s reaching for the sky
It’s not meant to die

“Damnatio AD Bestias”, Latin for ‘damnation to beasts’, is about the early Christian martyrs being fed to the lions and other beasts at the Coliseum in Rome for their beliefs:

Executed, torn apart
For the faith we pay with blood
Through death to life that will never end

Beasts can eat our flesh
But they cannot kill our souls
We will live forever
Behind the heaven doors

Through the sacrifice
We build the Church of Christ
That the gates of hell
Shall never overcome

“A Psalm Of Life” draws inspiration from the poem of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Lives of great men
Shall remind us all
That we can make our lives sublime

As departing that one day
We can leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time

Life is real
Unlike an empty dream
Life is earnest
And the grave is not our goal

I rate Decennium Primum slightly higher than Through The Storm and The Reckoning, two works that if you boiled down the best songs from both you would end up with one album that would score in the 85% to 90% range (in my opinion).  That said, Decennium Primum could also use one more song when factoring how one of its ten tracks is a short instrumental, but also keep in mind per the groups initial press material that the album was slated to be an EP as opposed to a full-length release.

Overall, Decennium Primum adds up to another successful release from Signum Regis.  I appreciate the group’s willingness to step outside its power metal boundaries by experimenting with neo-classical guitars and jazzy bass while allowing for a strong instrumental proclivity and lower register vocals- as opposed to the high-end crooners that often populate the genre.  Whereas I am not inviting comparison, if you like other ‘European power metal’ bands such as Narnia and Golden Resurrection or those with a European influence (think Theocracy) then I can see Signum Regis and its fifth album Decennium Primum being of taste.

Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Decennium Primum” (1:13), “Unfold The Mystery” (5:17), “Damnatio Ad Bestias” (4:27), “Screaming For Justice” (4:54), “Kingdom Of Light” (5:30), “The Future King” (4:07), “Well Deserved” (3:54), “Thunder And Rain” (5:38), “Train To Neverland” (5:10), “A Psalm Of Life” (6:17)

Mayo Petranin - Lead Vocals
Filip Koluš - Guitars
Ján Tupý - Keyboards
Ronnie König - Bass
Jaro Jančula - Drums


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