Sunday, August 3, 2014

Age Of Artemis - The Waking Hour

Age Of Artemis
The Waking Hour
Power Prog Records

When Brazilian outfit Age Of Artemis released their debut full-length effort ‘Overcoming Limits’ back in 2011 (Through Brazil based label MS Metal Records), the album was overwhelmingly well received by most, with many predicting the band would be the next big act to come out of Brazil’s thriving progressive/power metal scene since fellow Brazilian power metal act Angra first hit the scene back in the early ‘90’s. Three years on, and Age Of Artemis (Comprising of vocalist AlĂ­rio Netto, guitarists Gabriel ‘T-Bone’ Soto and Nathan Grego, bassist Giovanni Sena and drummer Pedro Sena) have returned with their long awaited sophomore effort ‘The Waking Hour’.
Given how acclaimed the band’s debut was, it wouldn’t have come as any surprise to hear the band produce a similar effort a second time around. But with ‘The Waking Hour’, it’s clear the band isn’t interested in rehashing the past. While ‘The Waking Hour’ features some shades of the past, there’s also a lot of new sounds on the album, which is something that sometimes works quite well, and other times, is something that clearly doesn’t work.
The album is opened up with ‘Penance’; a short acoustic/sound effects driven piece that eventually bleeds into some Latin tribal rhythms that serve as a thundering introduction to the powerful ‘Under The Sun’. Combining traditional Brazilian rhythms, power metal, touches of progressive metal and a strong sense of melody, ‘Under The Sun’ is the perfect example of the talent that lies within Age Of Artemis. Melodic, powerful, but never over the top, ‘Under The Sun’ is the perfect opener, and one of the band’s finest compositions to date.
Although a little slower in tempo, the follow up track ‘Broken Bridges’ is another great track, with Netto putting in a great performance (At times he reminds me of ex-Firewind/Spiritual Beggars front man Apollo Papathanasio and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson) alongside the guitarists (This song boasts some of the more memorable solos on the album), while the title track ‘The Waking Hour’ is one of the album’s heavier offerings on the vocal front, but melodic and memorable nonetheless.
It’s around the fifth track that the band hit their first hurdle. The ballad ‘Hunger And Shame’ isn’t necessarily a terrible song as such, but it’s not exactly one of the album’s shining moments either. Sounding a little Dream Theater stylistically, the song seems to drift by without really hitting its mark with its lack of character. Thankfully, the guitar heavy groove based ‘Melted In Charisma’ and the rather accessible ‘Childhood’ puts the album back on the right course with Netto’s strong melodies and the song’s overall progressive/Brazilian rhythm underpinning instrumentation.
Unfortunately, for all the obvious strengths of the album, there are some serious weaknesses that undermine ‘The Waking Hour’ towards the tail end. The first real misstep is ‘Your Smile’. Clearly the band are making an attempt to broaden their sound, but this acoustic piece of pop rock sounds completely out of place on the album with its melodic rock/AOR direction. Not unlike the former track, ‘Exile’ doesn’t work completely with the addition of symphonic influences turning what could have been a great song into something fairly typical of what you would expect from traditional power metal fare. The follow up track ‘New Revolution’ appears to have been moulded on the same template with the addition of symphonic elements, and while it’s not one the album’s strongest cuts, the lengthier progressive instrumental passages means it works far better than ‘Exile’.
Finishing up the album is the ballad ‘Winding Road’ (Which sounds reminiscent of Pink Floyd, and is something quite different for the band style wise) and a piano version of ‘Take Me Home’ (Which originally appeared on ‘Overcoming Limits’). Again, both songs are quite good, but I can’t help but feel that they give the album a weak and forgettable finish.
Overall, it’s clear that Age Of Artemis have progressed stylistically in their three years since the release of their first album, with ‘The Waking Hour’ boasting plenty of great songs, and some bold new sounds from the band as well.
But for all of the good points ‘The Waking Hour’ has, you can’t disguise the album’s one big flaw. And that’s its consistency. The album starts off with a bang, but ends in a whimper with the inclusion of too many slower/ballad like numbers towards the tail end.
In the end, Age Of Artemis has produced a worthy follow up album in ‘The Waking Hour’. Sure, it has some issues, but if the band keeps moving forward as they have done in the past, there’s every chance that with their next album, the band will definitely produce a real first class gem.

For more information on Age Of Artemis, check out - https://www.facebook.com/ageofartemis

© Justin Donnelly