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Damnation Angels - The Valiant Fire (5 Stars)


by Matt Hensch

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Damnation Angels (that's a terrible name for this group, by the way) shows throughout "The Valiant Fire" the kind of expansion in both style and quality that I like to see. Their symphonic power metal template, carried over directly from the admirable "Bringer of Light," sees itself moving upwards, as the instrumental performances and the general blueprint have expanded in excellent ways. It is the kind of record that did not cut corners around the factors that had needed a touchup, and while I quite fancied "Bringer of Light," it did seem to goad the listener on to this self-awareness of accessibility that was placed ubiquitously in every square inch of the album. (We don't have Metallica covers this time around, either.)

"The Valiant Fire" isn't too keen on showing off its user-friendliness. It is much more of a challenging experience standing next to its predecessor, though it certainly isn't the musical equivalent of finding the surface area of a cylinder. The symphonic power metal base is bonded firmly to Damnation Angels' song structures, once more conjuring phantasmagorias of Kamelot or a Nightwish that isn't so pointlessly satisfied with itself. "The Valiant Fire" moves beyond what the group demonstrated on "Bringer of Light" by adding more depth and substance without overloading the equation. The songs are subtler, more detailed, and more complex. This is especially true throughout the dreamlike "The Frontiersman," the instrumental "The Fire Inside," and the burning "Under an Ancient Sun," which all run up massive amounts of time yet soar through numerous riffs and wonderful symphonic bits that are cohesive and vibrant.

Damnation Angels does not find itself running out of gas when they dabble in a more manageable style of songwriting, as the new shade of improvement trickles down in palpable ways. "Finding Requiem" charges on a driving up-tempo riff that is augmented considerably by the careful symphonic arrangements intensifying the band's darker tone. "Icarus Syndrome" and "This is Who We Are" are triumphant power metal tunes taking the accessible route to new heights, again finding room for keyboards and symphonic bits that do not clutter the scene, but add to it. Damnation Angels has an emotional color similar to Kamelot's, although it seems more desperate and forlorn in its own little way than the funeral gloom following the authors of "The Black Halo." This essence especially pours out in "Closure" and "Everlasting," which are excellent tunes, carefully constructed and flowing with power.

The only song that rubs me the wrong way is "The Passing." It serves as the obligatory ballad; not necessarily a dud, but it throws off the record's flow. Vocalist Pellek, who has since shown himself the door, performs splendidly in what is very much congruent with the theme of overall improvement. His vocals serve to capture the true spirit of "The Valiant Fire" through his impressive range and dominant presence over well-written choruses, which are in abundance. "The Valiant Fire" takes the symphonic power metal model of "Bringer of Light," shapes up the songwriting to have a more stand-alone effect, summons improved choruses, and shows the perseverance of a group testing itself to handle the strain of evolution. In this case, it's a homerun; "The Valiant Fire" is something special.

Damnation Angels - The Valiant Fire (5 Stars)
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