Almanac – Tsar (Nuclear Blast)

Monday, 14th March 2016
Rating: 7.5/10

Following his separation from veteran German power/heavy metal act Rage, guitarist Victor Smolski last year set about assembling a new act that would fuse his classical work with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra and the conventional power metal songwriting of his past. Jeannette Marchewka from LMO joins on vocals while we also have the Orquestra Barcelona Filharmonia provides the supplementary woodwind/classical elements – add in a new rhythm section, Enric Garcia on keyboards plus two well-known male singers in the field and you have the makings of an action-packed debut album for Tsar.

Those two ‘known’ entities on the microphone David Readman (Pink Cream 69, Voodoo Circle) and Andy B. Franck (Brainstorm) often appear in the same song, covering all facets of the emotionally-driven material on display. The opening title cut sets the stage dramatically – featuring Smolski’s jackhammer guitar passages and fluid arpeggio lead break propensity as the keyboards and classical touches create tension in this epic, 7:48 arrangement. At times you feel overwhelmed as there can be five or six distinct elements on the vocal and musical front to set this grandiose aural journey – so prepare for a record that may take five or ten sessions to sink in. A lot of Victor’s quick finger picking tricks and tapping during “Self-Blinded Eyes” and conventional double bass blaster “Nevermore” assure Almanac keep power metal at the heart of their platform – the symphonic portions important to the band’s overall style, yet standing toe to toe with the electric proceedings.

The fusion of Russian folklore, world music, and classical passages opens up a treasure trove of creative options at the band’s disposal – check out the marching strains for “Children of the Future” or the Savatage-esque closer “Flames of Hate” as the marriage of symphony and metal proves enticing in terms of the influence bank. Using battles, wars, and historical intrigue from Russian history in the lyrics, Tsar can be educational for those who love to dig deeper into the stories.

A decent start, this scribe hopes Almanac uses the talent tools at their disposal to reach even higher heights in their songwriting on the follow-up.

Almanac official website