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Album Reviews : Almanac – Tsar

By on March 15, 2016

Almanac - Tsar - ArtworkFor anyone who knows me well enough, you’ll no doubt know by now I’m extremely obsessed passionate when it comes to power metal. And when I heard Victor Smolski would be returning to the metal world, I was rather chuffed. Here is a little back story for those unfamiliar with Victor Smolski.

Back in 1985 a small band hailing from Germany named Rage (formerly Avenger) burst onto the metal scene and joined in on the success of fellow German metal bands, Helloween, Blind Guardian and Running Wild. Jump to 1999 when Belarus native Victor Smolski joins Rage and brings about a new sound to the traditional German metal trio. Victor is notably known for his unique neoclassical influences, which at times are reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen. However, unlike Malmsteen, who seems to recycle a lot of his material, Victor creates unique compositions which further expanded Rage’s following and musical styling.

In 2013, Rage joined forces with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra and released the group’s debut album LMO. The entire album was composed by Victor himself, who cooperated with over 100 musicians to create a full scale theatrical experience. The classical and symphonic elements heavily ingrained in LMO would eventually lead to the birth of Almanac, a continuation of sorts when Victor left Rage in 2015.

Almanac would be considered a heavy metal super group, similar to that of Northern Kings, or a lesser extent Avantasia. I wouldn’t necessarily slump the band into a generic power metal pool because there is honestly too much going on to slap a straight-forward power metal label on it. Sure, the power metal hallmarks are there underneath the crust of the pie, but numerous influences of folk, neoclassical, melodic rock and traditional heavy metal make for a rather rich pie of musical influences. Almanac consists of bass player Armin Alic, drummer Michael Kolar and keyboardist Enric Garcia. Two high-class singers David Readman from Pink Cream 69, and Andy B. Franck of Brainstorm, and the obvious Victor Smolski to complete this massive line-up.

Twin vocalists David Readman and Andy Franck add a great dynamic to the music. Their vocal ranges fit perfectly into the album’s mix of mid paced melodic numbers like “Hands Are Tied” and “Reign of Madness” and its faster, more aggressive numbers, “Self-Blinded Eyes” and “Flames of Hate”. There is plenty of chorus-driven momentum with songs, “No More Shadow” and “Nevermore”; which will no doubt fit perfectly into Almanac’s live performances, cueing fans to scream at the top of their lungs.

Musically, there is definitely a lot going on. Victor offers his unique blend of neoclassical guitar wankery and crunchy, head banging riffs, with the addition of world music and classical arrangements to boot. Like I mentioned previously, you can’t really slump this album into a neat little power metal category. There is definitely elements of power metal in here, but don’t come into this album thinking it’s going to be all high-pitched whaling and epic duel wielding guitar solos of sword and sorcery. There is some present, but there is definitely an eclectic matching of influences to make this album stand out from the typical Dungeons and Dragons inspired power metal shovelware, or whatever the musical equivalent of shovelware may be.

I did experience déjà vu when listening to “Reign of Madness”, which carries a distinctive tone similar to “Twenty One”, taken from the 2012 Rage release with the same title. However, both songs venture off in different musical territories. Ironically, the opening of both “Reign of Madness” and “Twenty One” bare an uncanny resemblance to the music from the PC Real Time Strategy game, Starcraft, when playing as the Terran. I’m sure this is pure coincidence, but rather interesting nonetheless.

At the end of the day Almanac is something wholly different. I’ve been looking for an album of this calibre for a long time, and thank god I found it. While I have a tendency to go back to my classic speed/power metal collection, I’m always striving to find something new and exciting in power metal, and I’ve definitely found that with Almanac.


Anwar is the editor-in-chief of Metal When Anwar isn't busy promoting tours, interviewing bands and reviewing awesome music, he loves to collect metal vinyl and play video games. Follow Metal Obsession on Twitter and Facebook