Friday, January 29, 2016

Serenity (by The Man of Much Metal)

Artist: Serenity
Album Title: Codex Atlanticus
Label: Napalm Records
Year Of Release: 2016
Over the course of their career, Austria’s Serenity have made themselves ever-more indispensable in my world, slowly gathering momentum with each release. And then, with the release of ‘War Of Ages’ in 2013, I became entirely comfortable and had no qualms in describing the band as one of my very favourites within the melodic metal subgenre. The blend of catchy melodies and powerful male/female vocals alongside plenty of symphonic drama and bombast became a real highlight for me. ‘War Of Ages’ in particular, received regular rotation on my stereo as a result.
Fast forward to 2016 and Serenity are about to deliver album number five, ‘Codex Atlanticus’ via Napalm Records, albeit without the involvement of female vocalist Clémentine Delauney who has since departed the band. In an official release, the band cited the fact that they had taken the dual vocal approach as far as they wanted and therefore had no further need for Delauney’s services. As someone who found the vocal interplay between make vocalist Georg Neuhauser and Delauney very rewarding, this news came as a bit of a blow if I’m honest. Tracks like ‘Royal Pain’ for example, rank amongst my Serenity favourites.
Of course time will tell as to whether Serenity have made the correct decision here. However, the early signs are good and, to their immense credit, Serenity like to try new things. On ‘Codex Atlanticus’, bassist Fabio D’Amore adds his voice to a couple of tracks as does each member of the band to a greater or lesser extent.
The occasional track features a female vocal line but in the main, the responsibility for the bulk of the storytelling on this record is down to Georg Neuhauser. And fortunately, in Mr Neuhauser, Serenity are blessed with one of the very best vocalists in European melodic power metal. His range is impressive, his delivery is a great blend of the powerful and subtle and you can feel the passion in his voice as if he lives and breathes every word that he sings. I’m not normally a fan of vocalists with discernible accents but Neuhauser’s accent adds a welcome dose of the unique, meaning that he cannot be mistaken for anyone else.
As with the majority of Serenity albums before it, the lyrics on ‘Codex Atlanticus’ have a historical theme. However, rather than exploring many figures from the past, this album takes an in-depth look at one person in particular – namely Leonardo Da Vinci. It provides a fascinating backdrop for the record and underlines the intelligent song writing that can be found on ‘Codex Atlantic's’.
Great vocals and intelligent lyrics are nothing however without the music to back them up. And on that score, Serenity are not left wanting either. Backed up by a trademark crystal clear production, Messrs Neuhauser, D’Amore, Schipflinger (drums) and Hermsdörfer (guitars) create seriously catchy music that delivers tune after tune of generally up-tempo and bombastic material. There are occasions where the content verges on ‘cheesy’ territory but you know what? This subgenre is all the better for it and Serenity are no different. The final upshot is a record that hits you hard from the very beginning and gets better with each listen, to the point where you can’t help but listen to the album without a smile on your face.
The album opens with the title track, a short instrumental number that sets a genuinely cinematic tone to proceedings. As the title track dies away, it is replaced by ‘Follow Me’. Beginning quietly, it soon launches into a wonderfully crunchy and headbang-worthy riff topped off by a classic Serenity chorus. If anything, the bizarrely-titled ‘Sprouts Of Terror’ is even stronger thanks to an opening thrash-like riff, a hook-laden chorus and some wonderfully intense vocals from Neuhauser and D’Amore.
Elsewhere, ‘The Perfect Woman’ intrigues and genuinely pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved in this genre. The mix of Meatloaf and Queen with a stage-show musical sheen is brave but Serenity pull it off, just about. ‘Iniquity’ dials up the theatrical symphonic elements, as does ‘Reason’, with both sounding suitably bombastic, grand and epic as a result. Then there’s the celtic-sounding ballad ‘My Final Chapter’ which is slower but builds beautifully into a stunning crescendo full of power and emotion. ‘Caught In A Myth’ channels a stomping Kamelot vibe in places whilst ‘The Order’ is a brooding and rather menacing, yet highly melodic and addictive track that closes out the album in style.
On a first spin, I got the feeling that perhaps ‘Codex Atlanticus’ lacked a stand-out killer track or two like previous records. However, I soon realised that this is simply not the case. Such is the consistent quality on display throughout this album, each individual track offers something worthy of mention. And ultimately, it is this consistency that transforms ‘Codex Atlanticus’ from a good album into a great one. As such, it could be argued strongly that this is the best album of the band’s career. New and existing fans should therefore lap up the music on ‘Codex Atlanticus’. And, when all is said and done, this record helps to reaffirm my opinion that Serenity are simply one of the very best bands within the melodic power metal world.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0
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