Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lancer - Mastery (2016)

I have followed Lancer from the start, or at least from their first full length release and onwards. Their first two releases of NWoBHM influenced power metal are really good and very enjoyable, but still lacked something to elevate the band to the next level. Well, they have at least made a move to make that leap, signing with Nuclear Blast right before the unveiling of their third release. It still does not have to mean anything though, because it is the music that speaks the loudest in the end.

So has anything changed since "Second Storm"? Well, the sound is still fairly similar, but the NWoBHM influence is taking more of a backseat ride here, and the band turns up the heaviness instead. This makes "Mastery" sound more like a mix of Stratovarius and HammerFall, blending heavy hitters with soaring melodies. It is a parable that makes even more sense when you hear the vocalist Isak Stenvall, who sings with a high pitch that is not too far off from either Joacim Cans or Timo Kotipelto. In other words, he fits very well with the music.

Even if you cannot unsee these parables, it is pretty hard to not enjoy the music in "Mastery", because most of it pumps your adrenaline in just the right way, while also being really catchy. The title track roars on in an astounding way, with the band showing off all of their power, while both "Widowmaker", "Envy of The Gods", and "Future Millennia" leans more on the melodies, while still maintaining a fast momentum. While I feel like not all of the power songs in this record does not work (looking at you "Dead Raising Towers" and "Iscariot"), it is still enough quality here to make "Mastery" an excellent power metal outing.

What does surprise me though is that the two slower songs on this record, "Victims of The Nile" and "World Unknown", not  only brings some good variation, but actually shines really bright in comparison to a lot of its brethren. Especially "Victims of The Nile" is a great moody song that may be the longest song on this record (7 minutes and 36 seconds), but the band manages to hold it together in an impressive way, changing tempos and intensity throughout its run time. It reminds me of some of HammerFall's finest ballad moments, only this one is more versatile and exciting.

While the band is doing a really nice job on this record, I feel like the guitars are almost getting lost in the mix, never really standing out. It is pretty hard to extinguish that Lancer is a double guitar band, and the production is definitely to blame here. I find this especially odd in the song "Freedom Eaters", a song that has a long solo part at the end where the guitar sure gets its moment, but I remember the following bass and drum solo more. Still a great song, but it is exhibit A in why the guitars are not getting the love they deserve in this album.

Nonetheless, I think that "Mastery" not only holds the same standard as both "Lancer" and "Second Storm", but it might even be their best record so far. Sure, it has its flaws, and the band still has some kinks to work through, but they are on the right path. This heavier style works really well, and if the band keeps evolving in this direction, then the recognition will probably be even greater. Great job lads!

Songs worthy of recognition: Mastery, Future Millennia, Victims of The Nile, Freedom Eaters

Rating: 8/10 Iscariots

More reviews of Lancer
Second Storm

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