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Fairytale - Battlestar Rising

Battlestar Rising
by Daniel Stefanov at 20 May 2017, 5:47 AM

Power metal has been obsessed with fantasy themes for a while now. Up to the point that some less informed fans consider it enough to hear the word "dragon" in a song, to classify it as Power Metal, regardless of its actual musical appurtenance. This is why you will know my surprise was great, when I found about this classic Melodic Power Metal album, based around the rebooted SciFi show "Battlestar Galactica". Not only that, but by a band called FAIRYTALE, whose logo is an actual fairy! Talk about brand dissociation. That confusing fact aside, the album has a really high standard to uphold in my eyes, as I am both a huge Power Metal fan, and a huge "Battlestar Galactica" fan. The cover art is beautiful and it's easy to recognize the album among others. Upon closer inspection, there are some problems with the image, but since a young Power Metal band's budget is about half of a quarter of what a big band pays their cover artists, I'm willing to overlook the problematic details, even though the picture would have looked 1000 times better without the made-up obviously non-cylon fake spaceships that totally break the immersion. I digress. Let's get to the music.

The album opens with “Face The Truth,” a narrated intro that immediately cuts my expectations to size. It sounds cheap, overly-enthusiastic, poorly performed, and brings the image of what third world country TV stations would consider as a B-movie. I don't know who in their right mind would put that thing right before the top class titular track that follows. “Battlestar Rising” is a great six-and-a-half-minute power metal anthem that boasts talented guitarwork, solid drumming and a memorable melody. Vocals are rough at times and clean and soaring at others. Carsten shows great power at range, and carries the song beautifully, even though the bass was mixed out to the point where I doubt the bass player was even present during the recording. The song has the typical power metal atmosphere that fans of the genre know and love, however I am not certain how fitting said atmosphere is for the SciFi theme of the album. Ignoring the meaning of the words, the song does sound a lot like a fantasy-themed song, which is very far from the gritty futuristic realism and intellectual and emotional twists of the show. The lyrics show a tendency to be too descriptive, that keeps on throughout the album, but the chorus is powerful and it will definitely be stuck in your head for quite a while!

“Cain” is based around one of the best characters of the show - a smart, brutal, beautiful and emotionally rich rear admiral with a deep backstory and great impact on the plot. Her song, I believe, stays true to the character, showcasing complexity, beauty and uniqueness, in addition to a distinct ICED EARTH feel. “Man or Machine” is a rhythmic and melodic song, dictated by great drumming. Lyrics sound a bit goofy, but overall the track has its unique atmosphere, which again - is not the atmosphere I would associate with cylons - the sentient robots from whose perspective the song is presented - but whether you would like the feel of the song to stay true to the topic or the genre, is entirely up to you to decide. Me personally - not a huge fan of the Battlestar Unicorn hybrid, but that does not take from the apparent qualities of the song.

“Scar” is a song of a mean machine, which however keeps following the fast melodic formula of the whole album so far, instead of doubling down on the "hatred and fear" it sings about. Even though it is a good melodic song, and is heavy enough to be enjoyable in traffic, making "deathly silent killing machine" into just another regular song, is a huge missed opportunity in my eyes. The part of the chorus where they sing "Scar! Scar! Scar!" sounds too brutal and menacing to not be a part of a brutal headbanging, wall-breaking, neck-destroying song in the spirit of HELLOWEEN's "Kill It". “The Weird & The Mad” is the other side of "Scar"'s coin - "I am a genius and I love women all the way" has the huge potential to be a great goofy song in the spirit of (and I will take the Lord's name in vain again) HELLOWEEN's "Perfect Gentleman". However, FAIRYTALE go with the all-serious, fast and hard, melodic power metal yet again. There really is nothing bad about the song - it has a distinct melody, and is performed admirably in all technical aspects - however it is the fifth consequent song of the exact same style and disposition, and at this point it gets lost within the big bubble of nearly identical music that the first half the album forms. It could easily have been the closing part of a huge 20-minute song that encapsulates the beginning of the album, similar to the leading epic of "The Triumph of Steel". Actually, doing that would have been very impressive, would have negated all the minor drawbacks, and would have created a lot of positive associations for fans.

“Viper Pilots” is FAIRYTALE's "Aces High" both thematically and musically, and had it featured just a bit more energetic singing and a twist or two in the chorus, it could easily had been the best song on the album. ”New Caprica” starts off slower and more emotional, and there are moments of the familiar ICED EARTH-ish feel, which fits the song and the album perfectly. Once again however I see a missed opportunity, as New Caprica is the site of one of the most epic battles in SciFi TV history, and skipping on that topic for the sake of addressing the settler's feelings is a bit disappointing for me. The song itself is good, however sounds a little too upbeat for being the emotional track on the record. Make it just a bit gloomier and it would have been perfect. ”Final Five” is rhythmic and original, again raising IRON MAIDEN associations. It is an eight-minute epic that depends mostly on instrumental portions and is pleasant to listen, however a bit tiresome after the sixth minute.

“The Opera House” starts beautiful and eerie and then transitions into the known formula that the majority of the album upholds. The intro and the chorus are memorable, but the verses and bridge are generic and boring, and pull the song down substantially. “The Admiral's Speech” is the second out-of-place narration on this album. Everything said about the first, holds true here as well. Luckily it is short, and the powerful intro of the final song, “Colony (The Final Battle),” quickly erases the awkwardness. The song itself features some memorable guitarwork and little else, since it is the epitome of generic. The album should have ended on "The Opera House", but it seems the band were insistent on going through with the whole story, even if that meant some less inspired material had to make it on the album.

Overall, "Battlestar Rising" is hard to listen to from start to finish, but does contain several very good songs, that easily get stuck in your head for weeks. "Battlestar Rising", "Scar", and "Viper Pilots" can be great additions to any power metal playlist. There are a few annoyances with the album as a whole, and they are typical for both conceptual albums, and young power metal bands. First off, Carsten has a beautiful and powerful voice, but he absolutely need to show more versatility with it. Fear, concern, anger, hate, joy - every emotion of every song of the album is sung the exact same way - the generic, energetic, melodic power metal singing with prolonged vowels. For one or two songs it's fine, especially if they are songs fitting the tone, like "Battlestar Rising" or "Viper Pilots". For a whole album, it is tiresome as frak. Second, and that's a trap that many artists fall into - a song's lyrics, generally, are not meant to be a novel. They are not meant to explain stuff. They are meant to fit the melody, be easy to remember and sing, and carry a meaning of emotional characteristics, that become relevant for the fan, so the song becomes important to someone. Especially in the case where your album is based on an already existing show, spanning 4 seasons, 2 miniseries, and 2 feature-length films. You can't fit that in an album, so why even try? Like a very wise man once said: "Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing". JUDAS PRIEST tried to fit a less accessible story in a two-disc, 23-song release, and even they failed, so… Third, there is no shame in making a ballad, you know. At least two songs on the album show a desire to be ballads, however seem forced by the band into the known melodic power metal formula.

In conclusion, "Battlestar Rising" is an album that shows a lot of passion and effort, not always in the right direction, but still resulting in a release that is a lot better and more entertaining than the huge blob of fantasy-themed copy-paste music that the power metal genre is flooded with. What could have been the best of both worlds, is neither the dream album for any power metal fan, nor the dream album for any BSG fan, but I do believe a large portion of those will be happy with the release. I personally am, despite the minor flaws. Good job, FAIRYTALE, we will keep our laser cylon eyes on you, and if you plan on more SciFi-themed work, look into changing that logo!

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 8
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

1. Face The Truth
2. Battlestar Rising
3. Cain
4. Man or Machine
5. Scar
6. The Weird & The Mad
7. Viper Pilots
8. New Caprica
9. Final Five
10. The Opera House
11. The Admiral's Speech
12. Colony (The Final Battle)
Carsten Hille - Vocals
Colin Büttner - Guitars
Stefan "Absorber" Klempnauer - Guitars
Frank Buchta - Bass
Christopher Instenberg - Drums
Record Label: Art Gates Records


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Edited 31 January 2023

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