Well… huh. Since when is the obligatory overrated power metal album in the RYM [current year] metal top 40 actually good? I mean sure, this has very little replayability, and after the initial “hey this is actually pretty dang good”shock wears off, it leaves something to be desired, but considering all of those obvious faults, this rules.
Almanac debuts with a power metal rock opera with a very apparent progressive tinge, chronicling the reign of Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible. Of course, I can say that, but despite those facts, when it comes down it, this is chug power. Quite good chug power, but chug power nonetheless. Normally that instantly caps your max rating at around the 6 level on my scale, but I feel like Almanac manages to avoid this pitfall through pulling some shenanigans in how they do the chugging deed. Actually it’s not really shenanigans at all, they just use chugging as a form to setup tension and build backing for the fantastic vocals, as well as using the heavy guitars for chug-riffs rather than just mindless repetitive chords. I just really wanted to use the word shenanigans there. Fun word, needs more use outside of conversations between high school musical theater students.
Speaking of which, the theatrical aspects of this album are actually presented in quite a professional manner. I mean yeah, there’s the obvious amount of “cheese” you’re going get with power metal, but I put that in quotes here because nothing about this is actually over the top. Sure, it’s going to sound a tad goofy, as does any power metal album, but aside from sometimes slightly overly theatrical aspects of this record, I see this as quite a professionally done piece of music. The production in particular is top notch clean work, which makes me take this as seriously as I’ll ever take a power metal album. There’s a feel of genuine want to create a story that’s not just muh dragons and DnD, and I think that’s necessary for a good power metal album. As much as I like cheese, if it doesn’t feel like the band is trying to create something that’s not just goofy, it makes me feel like the band is almost mocking their genre rather than trying to embrace it, which doesn’t make them too rad of dudes in my book. Then again I like Gloryhammer, so what do I know?
The main part of Tsar that I enjoy the most is actually the guitar work. The internet has told me that Victor Smolski is a legendary guitarist, so I’ll believe them in an effort to look learned, and he displays what the lord our god Internet has told me. The single on this album, Self-Blinded Eyes, proves this fact, which as well as featuring a fantastic solo towards the end of the track, also features a bit of a riff cereal. It’s sort of like Lucky Charms, with all of the marshmallows being different colors and include all of that tasty processed sugar flavor that my 8 year old self loved. Each riff brings a bit of breakfast time memories to me, as I go off to school, ready to be picked on endlessly because my mom wouldn’t buy me Lunchables. That’s kind of a contrived analogy, but fuck it, I really like breakfast anyway, that’s good enough. Unsurprisingly, this is the best track on the album, and brings forth the driving rhythms that the appropriate use of chugging can do to a track.
However, I have to go back to what I said in the first paragraph: this is chug power, and after the initial pleasant surprise factor, the albums positive attributes wears thinner and thinner. This is a good album, definitely one of the better power metal records I’ve heard this year. But it’s the tolken overrated RYM power metal album of the month for a reason, even if it tries its best to break that stereotype.