Excalion – Emotions
Two years after the release of the surprisingly great “Dream Alive” comes the next installment in what I’d call the band’s second chapter. This so-called chapter started when Marcus Lång replaced their previous vocalist, Jarmo Pääkkönen. Initially I was concerned, cause it’s hard to find a vocalist who can hit such fantastic high notes as Jarmo. But hey, Excalion proved me that high notes aren’t everything and showed all of us that the dream is indeed alive.
Bad jokes aside, the goal of this album, as it was stated in the promotional materials, is to take us on a journey through different emotions. They achieve it through mixing the mood of each song a little bit, but without getting outside their distinguishable style and use of synths. It is very much a continuation of mostly midtempo power metal from their previous album, inspired by the likes of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius. In terms of quality, “Emotions” picks up where “Dream Alive” left off but it takes a couple steps further: the songs are just a bit better, the choruses a bit catchier.
“Trust” already establishes the aforementioned concept with the emotion of... trust. Eerie verse transfers into slightly melancholic chorus which then continues into a great instrumental section followed by a synth solo. The song gets slightly faster when the guitar comes to do a solo of its own, a great way to start any album.
The second song, “Sunshine Path”, was also the first single and I can see why. Easily the simplest and the catchiest song on the record, filled with cheesy synths. I’m not overly sold on this song, it’s not their greatest, but still listenable and the chorus eventually finds a cozy place in your mind after a couple of listens. For sure the instrumental sections stand out here, it helps to break away from the repetition this song struggles with.
The sinister intro followed by a solid guitar riff in “Lost Control” prepares you for what is one of the more aggressive, ballsy and in your face songs on this record. If you’re not a fan of the first two midtempo, flowery songs, then this one should keep you interested in what’s to come, one of my favorites from this record. The “bing bang boom, the bringer of doom” line make me think of some villains from the old 2D Disney animations. It’s a bit cheesy… but damn, Marcus makes it sound wicked. Another even more aggressive track is the “Nightmariner” - the way synth and the guitar complement each other during the verses just works so well, and the little pause right before the last chorus makes it so much more impactful and powerful.
“The Golden Horde” is a solid track until, again, the instrumental/solo section kicks in. Then it becomes 10 times better, the case in many songs on this album. Sometimes those sections are even more earwormy than choruses!
If you’re looking for a good ballad on this album you should head over to “I Left My Heart at Home”. There was a time in power metal when having a ballad on your record was a necessity, which led to a lot of skippable songs on a lot of records; this one, though, is the first ballad in a very long time that I’ve actually enjoyed and saved to my playlist for further listens. I hate to use this word again, but the ending is exceptionally powerful, the entire song builds up to that climactic moment.
Overall, it’s another great release by Excalion, dare I say their best one yet. If you liked “Dream Alive” then definitely check this one out. Would also recommend it for fans of Finnish power metal giants such as Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica.