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ShadowStrike – Legends of Human Spirit Award winner

Legends of Human Spirit
by John Paul Romero at 17 September 2019, 6:28 PM

In a year like this where there has already been a flood of topnotch Power Metal albums like “Dominion”, “Dawn of the Dragonstar”, “Moonglow” and “Unyielding”, you might feel like you no longer have time to breathe due to its overflowing energy. But you can hold your breath for even longer, as New York-based Power Metal quintet SHADOWSTRIKE unleashes forth their first full-length effort “Legends of Human Spirit”.

The album is exactly as enchanted as the presented album artwork – in terms of production, songwriting and everything in between – and anyone who thinks otherwise can fight me. It features epic guitar solos and duels that are so fast it can travel through time, while bearing very vibrant and lively melodies. The adventure-filled lyrics would take you to a different horizon while being served with an over-the-top vocal production. This kind of Power Metal can be described as a hybrid of DRAGONFORCE and TWILIGHT FORCE, perfectly crafted into a precious gem. They contain DRAGONFORCE’s rampages of drum blasting and sweep picking but with greater control and stability, and also possesses TWILIGHT FORCE’s breathtaking adventurous theme. Also, aside for the two bands with which the album took major influences from, there are also these epic choirs which really remind me of EUNOMIA – a band that is familiar to vocalist Matt Krais, who worked with guitarist Marius Danielsen in his first solo album.

Aside for the guitars and the drums, one more department that stood out in the album is the keyboards, which had several key moments in the album like in the breaks in the opening song “Heart For Yearning Journey”. It is also the driving force that gave “Fly With Me” and epic intro. Keyboards also played a vital role in the ten-minute closing track. But of course what gave life to the stories is Matt’s versatile vocals. His might is already on full display right from the opening track and never looked back until the dying notes of their beloved epic “Gales of Winter” which first appeared five years ago in their EP “Infinite Power”.

What made “Legends of Human Spirit” a really thrilling album is the way the tracks were paced. It started with an epic track with big, catchy choruses in “Heart For Yearning Journey” which was followed-up by the unexpectedly awesome “Ascension”. I said “unexpectedly” because the said track is a spoken passage, and we all know that these spoken passages are mere fillers most of the time. But in SHADOWSTRIKE’s case, they managed to create an atmospheric narrative with just the right amount of cheese balanced with a colorful soundscape – all to introduce “Fly With Me”, yet another catchy song but is much more loose than the opening song. They placed their 2012 classic “The Fiery Seas and Icy Winds” in the middle of the album to serve as the climax – and man, it only got better with age! We then witness a bit of a shift in dynamics with “Where Sleeping Gods Await” which is relatively slower than the rest of the tracks – but is never short in epicenes. I also found it great that they closed the album with another classic in “Gales of Winter” for it served as a monumental conclusion to their ten-track story telling.

Now, let’s set the musical production aside for a while. Power Metal is deemed the most triumphant and colorful Metal subgenre, and one of the defining elements is the lyrics. What kind of poetry does “Legends of Human Spirit” contain? Well, I did not call this album enchanted for no reason. The top class lyrics reach the heights of AVANTASIA with some slices of TWILIGHT FORCE and Luca Turili era of RHAPSODY. It is no secret that cheese is the main ingredient of the lyrics of any Power Metal band, and SHADOWSTRIKE is no different. Their difference is that they did it with pretty lesser gimmicks compared than the majority of modern Power Metal bands out there. Some of my favorite lines are in the tracks “Heart For Yearning Journey” (And then we looked back through the ages / The sands of time now running so thin/We were young, we lived, we laughed until the pain had faded / Reach out in faith and you’ll / Take my hand and hold tight / We’re writing the pages of our lives / Every time there’s one more chapter / Story never ends / Fly Away!) and “Where Sleeping Gods Await” (Endless morning, truth and glory, like you’ve never known / We live together, sing in harmony, telling stories old / Wherever you are, I’ll be by your side / In magic lands where sleeping gods await / We all have our past, and futures to find / But I won’t listen to your tragedy / When the stars shine bright).

One thing you can be sure of when you get this album is that you will never lose your attention once you started listening to it. You might even run out of words of wonder to say before the tracks run out of energetic and anthemic verses. You might also lose your mind once that choir part of “Voice in The Night” drops. By merely looking at the song lengths, you might say it’s bloated, but I won’t blame you. However, one thing I can assure is that all those 55 minutes before the final song has no down moments and that final track I’m talking about, “Gales of Winter” is completely worth the journey.

Like I’ve mentioned in my recent reviews, 2019 is really friendly to Power Metal fans. “Legends of Human Spirit” is another excellent reason why. With songs filled with epicenes and crafted to mastery, I can say that it is a must-have for any Power Metal fans out there if you want to complete your catalogue of “Best Power Metal Albums of 2019”. Yup, I just said that. “Heart For Yearning Journey” and “Gales of Winter” by the way are strong candidates for the best Power Metal songs of 2019. It’s been quite a while since I said this: Metal Temple approves!

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 7
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Heart Yearning For Journey
2. Ascension
3. Fly With Me
4. Fields of Valour
5. The Fiery Seas And Icy Winds
6. Where Sleeping Gods Await
7. Forever as One
8. Voice in The Night
9. A Dream of Stars
10. Gales of Winter
Matt Krais – Vocals, Guitars
Jon Krais – Bass
Alex Coughlin – Drums
Sean Walls – Guitars
Ryan Patane – Keyboards
Record Label: Independent


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