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Human Fortress - Epic Tales and Untold Stories Award winner

Human Fortress
Epic Tales and Untold Stories
by BeelzeBarbie Rose at 16 January 2021, 2:34 AM

The HUMAN FORTRESS band emerged in Hannover, Germany during 1999 with the song “Dragon’s Lair”.  Year 2000 produced the band’s debut release entitled "The Lord Of Earth And Heaven’s Heir"–to be re-released during 2013.  Subsequent releases include “Defenders of the Crown" during year 2003–to be re-released during year 2016;  "Eternal Empire" during year 2008; "Raided Land" during year 2013; "Thieves of the Night" during year 2016; “Reign of Gold" during year 2019.

“The Grimoire” - the album’s initial track, pre-released on Youtube on November 19th 2020, for promotion of the forthcoming January 22 2021 release “Human Tales and Untold Stories” (see the following link). The song opens with keyboards.  Guitars enter with a subdued background.  The vocals of Gus Monsanto are clear and clean - and through the verses, are accompanied by acoustic guitar.  with short bits of electric, mildly distorted rhythm. The refrain uses the main lyrical theme “open the grimoire in crepuscular light / distract their attention to me” (‘crepuscular’ is twilight or dusk).

“Disappear In Dark Shadows” - the second album track opens with a short but pithy drum solo– a bit heavier than “The Grimiore”;  the heaviness calms for the singing the vocals through the verses. Laki Zaios adds a restrained speed on the double bass drums while the verses are sung, and I enjoy this touch of innovation. “Vain Endeavor” - the third album track opens mildly;  the verses progress with scratching distorted guitars together with keyboard harmonies.  At about two minutes thirty seconds into the song, the rhythm guitar gets interesting, playing a variation of the main riff. Thus far on the release this track would be the heaviest song on the album.

“Free” - the fourth album track begins with extensive keyboards from Dirk Liehn - behind Gus Monsanto’s vocals. Keyboards replicate strings and various orchestral instruments such as flutes or other woodwinds. The only other accompaniment to this ballad are background vocals behind the lead vocals of Gus Monsanto.  “Fernweh” - the fifth album track utilizes a slower tempo with leads from the higher guitar strings;  a “Hell Chorus” from keyboard background serves as a background through the verses - with short accented scratchy distorted rhythm guitars.

We Are Legion” - (version with vocalist Gus Monsanto) is the sixth album track, and it opens with keyboards nearly resembling a harpsichord. The chorus has an extremely interesting sound combination resembling the harpsichord mixed with a  heavier dose of metal rhythm which is accompanied by a Hell Chorus keyboard simulation.   Happily we hear Gus Monsanto scream in rage. Distorted rhythm guitars add a welcome bouts of aggression for a melodic lead solo.

“Cruel Fantasy” - the seventh album track opens with aggressive rhythm guitars - and thus far seems the heaviest track on the album - almost reminiscent of old MOTLEY CRUE.  Keyboards soften the touch for the verses, and then add a subtle counterpoint–especially through the chorus of the song.  The opening guitar returns without keyboards just before a melodic guitar solo.  The lyrical theme describes “I wish I could just wake up and realize that everything had just been a terrible dream / I wish I could just wake up and realize that everything had just been a “Cruel Fantasy”.

“Pray For Salvation” - is a synthesized orchestral version of the song. Opening with a keyboard sound resembling a plucked harp & a picked guitar sting, Dirk Liehn’s keyboards emulate an orchestral section of woodwinds, with a simulated flute sound in the soprano register.  The keyboards also resemble an orchestral string section.  The lyrical theme involves “Pray or Salvation / Self revelation / Show me the way / To ride out the day / Rise up to paradise / When I Die!”.

“The Lord Of Earth And Heaven’s Heir" - the first track of the second disk opens with a keyboard pedal tone while Laki Zaios plays a four measure snare rhythm pattern that repeats for twelve successions (I love this!!!). This endures for less than the first minute. Before the song ends keyboards return to the replicate the harmonium sound - with the bass note utilizing a chromatic escape tone with a lovely harmonic dissonance - nearly reminiscent of a baroque passacaglia–that even Dmitry Shostakovich utilizes in the passacaglia of his second violin concerto.

“The Dragon’s Lair” - the second track of the second disk opens to a tempo faster than any of that on the first disk. The drums of Laki Zaios & bass of André Hort push a more furious groove along; still melodic, but with increased aggression.  “Defender’s of the Crown” - the third track of the second disk reveals a softening of the pulse from “The Dragon’s Lair”; keyboards again utilize the  sound resembling a plucked harp and a picked guitar string- but the aggression returns just prior to the guitar solo.

“Border Raid On Lion’s March” - the fourth track of the second disk opens with a keyboard simulated recorder (the baroque folk instrument)–almost reminiscent to the connotation of  a European medieval countryside festival–or modern recreation of the same.  in lieu of a guitar solo,  keyboards re-introduce the same introductory theme–initially resembling a viola then resembling a duet between the viola and a recorder.   Before the song finishes guitars play the same introductory theme o the lower, distorted strings of the guitar (I like this!!); keyboards resume this theme in round form as the song fades.

“Gladiator of Rome (Part I)” - the fifth track of the second disk - fast punchy rhythm guitars opens this - of course propelled by André Hort & Laki Zaios & on bass & drums respectively–and this sounds wonderful. The groove carries this song. “Gladiator Of Rome (part II)” - the sixth of the second disk opens with similar intensity between the bass, drums and rhythm guitars. Laki Zaios is nearly playing a thrash beat.  A simulated Hell Chorus resounds during the verses.  The guitar solo is introduced with an unexpected key modulation- and the guitar solo remains melodic - while André Hort & Laki Zaios together with the rhythm guitars sustain the metallic edge.

“Wasted Years” - the seventh track of the second disk opens with a simulated “Harmonium” - that instrument used for hundreds of years - almost similar to an organ. This sound is alluring!  I have difficulty not humming “The Lick”: which begins on a major third interval - (a solfege equivalent would be of Mi-Do/Mi-Do / Re-Ti/Re-Ti) which then moves to the standard verse chorus structure–which does not last long.  Clearly - my favorite tune on this double disk. A splendid resurgence occurs when distorted guitars take the rhythmic motive of the original lick while the respective bass and drums of André Hort & Laki Zaios pound the song out to a thrash beat.  I want to throw something.  HUMAN FORTRESS is metal after all. I love it.

“The Chosen One” - the eighth track of the second disk most interesting  moment is before the guitar solo. This seems more like JUDAS PRIEST - but the rhythm section resembles a light thrash behind a speedier modern guitar solo that ends the track. “Dark Knight” - the ninth track of the second disk.  A heavier metal tune than earlier parts of especially the first disk, the band seems more of a melodic (light) metal band. More synthesized harmonium introduces a keyboard sound for the song to progress to a thrashy-style tribute to METALLICA’S “One”.

“Thieves Of The Night” - the tenth track of the second disk is another fast tune highlighted by André Hort & Laki Zaios; over which, the rhythm guitar for the main lick is a fast distorted right hand string scratch.  “Rise Or Fall” - the eleventh track of the second disk opens with a drum lick by Laki Zaios; throughout the song André Hort adds a magnetic pull against the rhythm section - enhancing the groove. The song - especially by the presence of André Hort is similar to an IRON MAIDEN Tune.

“Thrice Blessed” - the twelfth track of the second disk is slow but heavier.  The guitar chords convey a lovely dissonance that rings a lovely (horrid) distortion. The (rhythm) guitar sounds almost resemble that of MERCYFUL FATE’S “Don’t Break the Oath” release–which is a most unholy sound to re-sound for any and every pious metal head.    The guitar picks of Volker Trost & Todd Wolf are now plucking at my heart-strings - as my two hands cover my Valentinian Breast.

“Surrender” - the fourteenth track of the second disk opens with a slower thrash style rhythm guitar lick. Laki Zaios doubles his rhythmic attack for the second verse. The guitar solo is reminiscent of the nineteen eighties sounds of IRON MAIDEN. Yet the song ends with an unexpected tribute to MERCYFUL FATE’S “Night of The Unborn”.  My heart‘s now a flame as I weep tears of blood. What a wonderful day for a possession!

HUMAN FORTRESS professes this album to be their most commercialized release to date–and even advertise this through promotion. Some of the synthesized sounds were absolutely wonderful and simulated musical round forms of the baroque - especially in the “Wasted Years” track.  Who wouldn’t raise her honorary fist in reference of our British IRON headed MAIDEN! The unexpected references to MERCYFUL FATE piqued nostalgias & aroused the interests of this lacy veiled lady to sharpen my nails to scratch myself out from this covid coffin.  On January 22 2021 - I hope you’ll join me in hearing the “Epic Tales and Untold Stories” of this HUMAN FORTRESS, which of mine I’ll offer unto:

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Disc One:

1. The Grimoire
2. Disappear In Dark shadows
3. Vain Endeavor
4. Free
5. Fernweigh
6. We Are Legion
7. Cruel Fantasy
8. Pray For Salvation (Orchestral Version)

Disk Two:

1. The Lord Of Earth And Heaven’s Heir"
2. The Dragon’s Lair
3. Defender’s of the Crown
4. Border Raid On Lion’s March
5. Gladiator of Rome (Part I)
6. Gladiator Of Rome (part II)
7. Wasted Years
8. The Chosen One
9. Dark Knight
10. Thieves Of The Night
11. Rise Or Fall
12. Thrice Blessed
13. Lucifer’s Waltz
14. Surrender
15. Thunder
Gus Monsanto - Vocals
Volker Trost - Guitar
Todd Wolf - Guitar
Dirk Liehn - Keyboard
André Hort - Bass
Apostolos (Laki) Zaios - Drums
Record Label: Massacre Records


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Edited 09 February 2023

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