Helion Prime’s third album features yet another lead singer shuffle as live vocalist Mary Zimmer (ex-Luna Mortis/White Empress) makes her studio debut, but their sci-fi Power Metal vision remains undeterred. Following the underwhelmed reception to 2018’s Terror Of The Cybernetic Monster, the band seems to aim for a vibe similar to their 2016 self-titled debut. The song structures are similarly streamlined, and the vocals have a consistently poppy character prone to anthemic layering and the occasional Melodeath scream. Guitarists Jason Ashcraft and Chad Anderson’s polished chugs and sweeping leads serve as the grand equalizer.Continue reading
The line between “eclectic” and “messy” is a dangerous one. It’s a popular approach in Metal, and bands like Sigh have always made throwing a pile of disparate sounds and influences into a bag and shaking them up sound easy. On their debut album Rise Of The Empress (Peaceville), White Empress (featuring Cradle OfFilth guitarist Paul Allender), have unfortunately shown us how difficult it can be to get right.
On paper, at least, Rise Of The Empress is an epic-scale clash of symphonic keyboards, Goth-club dance elements, groovy riffs and accessibly vicious Black-ish Metal, topped with the alternatively rocking, commanding and shrieking vocals of the White Empress herself (also called Mary Zimmer). Not the most unique combination, perhaps, but nevertheless an ambitious one, and they’ve got the right ingredients for it. Allender’s playing is as sharp and hook-driven as people familiar with his work in Cradle would expect, and the album is studded with catchy riffs and grooves. The strongest single element, however, is Zimmer’s voice – embracing a range of tones and styles effectively, she comes the closest to giving the album the sense of consistency that it lacks.
If the individual elements are all handled effectively, the problem here (and I’m afraid that it’s a big one) is how they’re put together. Most songs lack individual character – loose assortments of riffs, grooves and keyboard swells held together by their placement on the album rather than any sense of meaningful composition. The album frequently aims for the dramatic, even the (forgive me) “epic”, but without a strong character it generally falls flat, a wall of flashy sound and gestures with no memorable depth behind it.
For all its promise, Rise Of The Empress is ultimately a weak album composed of strong parts, with plenty of individual moments to enjoy but little sense of depth to the record itself. By far the best thing about it is the potential for the future – with a tightening up of song-writing and a greater sense of drama their second album might be genuinely worth paying attention to.