Artch – Another Return: 4/5
It seems appropriate to start by mentioning that power is not my usual genre of choice. Not to say I don’t enjoy it from time to time, but suffice to say most of the time it fails to capture my attention, so the fact this album is currently playing for about the 6th time in a row and I’m still enjoying it gives some idea of my opinion of it, as well its replay value.
Some of this may be explained by the unconventional nature of their particular style. Unlike most power metal bands, typified by the likes of Savatage, Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, they play a slightly unusual brand of power metal with strong thrashy riffs over more aggressive power metal vocals than one might expect – more akin to the likes of Holy Moses or Iron Maiden - but none of this feels forced. For the most part, the combination of powerful clean vocals (which I cant help but be reminded of Ronnie James Dio) over the aggressive riffs works, if not producing something instantly memorable. I can’t help but get that feeling of familiarity, as though there is nothing that I haven’t heard before being performed on this album. Whether this was true when it was released (1988) I am unsure, but certainly by today’s standards it holds true.
The album opens with a short instrumental track, which sounds quite appropriate for the introduction for a speech by some medieval emperor. This is carried through into the first ‘real’ track before quickly turning into an unrelenting assault of controlled aggression. This track from which the album takes its name is a definite high-point of the album, with an addictive chorus, strong riffs and vocals that clearly show-off the power and emotion he can carry with his voice.
Unfortunately this isn’t true of all the tracks. The album overall is consistently of a high standard, but the tedious balance between aggression and power seems to be lost at times. No track does this become more apparent than on “Where I go.” The ballad track of the album, the slower paced song demonstrates both a lack of power by the vocalist, and a lack of aggression from the guitarists. Even the solo’s – which are usually one of their greatest strengths – feel out of place. Despite this, its not a terrible track, but certainly not up to the standard of the rest of the album and I felt that perhaps more could have been done with it.
The solo’s on this album deserve their own paragraph. With enough speed to fight back against the best of today’s, yet with an emotional melody that leaves you feeling that it is a natural part of the song. It screams of the times when a song couldn’t be branded “good metal” unless it had a solo which constituted the highlight of the song, and here it most definitely applies. In recent years, this art seems to have been forgotten in many cases, and this band serves to give an example to how it should be done.
So, in conclusion, what we have is a forgotten gem of the past that no power metal enthusiast should be without.
(Highlights: Another Return to Church Hill, The Promised Land)
P.S. The copy in my possession also features a bonus track called “Jezabel.” Quite frankly it isn’t a bonus. It sounds like a track dismissed by a far worse band. The song style is quite different from the rest of the album, and nullifies the benefit of having a strong closing song. For the purposes of the rating given, I felt it best to pretend this ‘bonus track’ never existed.
By T. Bawden