Tuesday, November 1, 2011
ReinXeed - 1912 (2011)
Tommy Johansson is a smart guy. After a couple early attempts at putting the ReinXeed project together, he finally got started with a full album release in 2008 and has been going at breakneck speed ever since. He has released 4 albums under the ReinXeed moniker so far, one each from 2008 through 2011, as well as participating in both Golden Resurrection albums in 2010 and 2011. He also recorded a compilation called "Swedish Hitz Goes Metal" which takes classic pop hits from Ace of Base, ABBA and other Swedish pop stars and metalize them. This idea is not new, as Helloween did an ABBA cover (along with several other varying styles) a few years back, but certainly the man has done his fair share of making a name for himself within the European metal scene over the last 4 years.
The other thing that Tommy has done is consistently improve upon himself during that timeframe. By all accounts, each ReinXeed album is an improvement over the previous release. While I can't speak for the 1st 2 ReinXeed releases, as I haven't acquired or heard them yet, I will say that 1912 is a step up from Majestic both in terms of songwriting and overall performance. While Majestic was a fine album of neoclassical power metal, it had a hard time (like many of its peers) of separating itself from the pack, though the guitar work certainly helped it gain ground. 1912 puts ReinXeed in another league, however, by doing more interesting things melodically, pushing Tommy vocally in terms of combining that pop sense of melodicism with the, erm, "majestic" (sorry, pun intended) feel that this style demands, and by improved songwriting that makes the album a more interesting listen throughout. Where Majestic was content to take the rote neoclassical and power metal formulas and add Tommy's fretboard magic on top, 1912 becomes a much more fully realized release, due in part to the concept and storyline of the sinking of the Titanic. Much like the blockbuster film on the same subject, this album takes the event and turns it into a more personal and interesting affair than simply the sinking of the world's largest cruise ship.
Musically, this album is quite the tour de force. Tommy is in fine form, pumping out melodic, unique, and catchy riffs that allow the songs to be both firmly grounded, but also weightless and majestic due to the bombast. Lead playing is as good as you've ever heard from Tommy, with a nice combination of both tasteful licks and shredding leads to keep guitar solo fans happy. Drum work by Viktor Olofsson is quite good, with plenty of galloping rhythms, and his playing here is rife with precision. Bass by Nic Svensson is also good, though a bit less audible in the mix. Additional guitar work by Matias Johansson and Calle Sundberg is as it should be, with precise playing that is at once emotive and powerful. Tommy is no slouch on the keyboards as well, with several nice spots where he allows that instrument to shine without taking center stage or over-utilizing it. Lyrically, the album is strong as well, with the perspective of a passenger of the sinking Titanic through most of the songs, as well as an outsider's perspective on a couple tracks reflecting on the size, scope, and historical impact of the Titanic itself, as well as on the fact that the ship was supposed to have been "unsinkable". One contrast I find particularly enjoyable is how the sinking of the ship is somewhat overwrought in the lyrics, and an event that likely didn't take long (in the sense of the passage of time) is looked at very carefully and from multiple angles, which takes on a bit of a "slow motion" effect from the story perspective, contrasted with the speedy and melodic power metal being played. This juxtaposition works surprisingly well, and gives the album a unique feel to it.
Some of Tommy's melodies are quite unique and interesting, like the chorus melody in the title track. They are somewhat remeniscent of Blind Guardian's "A Night At the Opera" album in their sort of unique approach, and also in their somewhat grandiose execution, complete with vocal and instrumental layering. ReinXeed doesn't come off as a clone, however, which helps keep the material fresh, despite the similarity. Honestly enough, other than perhaps the album's longevity (all this bombast can be slightly tiresome after a while), or perhaps the somewhat disjointed flow of the lyrics (going from chronological storyline to musing about the Titanic and back to storyline), I don't have anything negative to say about this album. ReinXeed has done what every band should do from one release to the next: namely, to improve upon what they've already done and add new elements to their proven formula so it doesn't become stale. The band has accomplished that in spades, as I think "1912" is a significant enough step up from "Majestic" that fans of the band and newcomers alike will find plenty to love here, and will be impressed by the band's overall success with fusing the concept and story to the music. Highly recommended, if not essential for fans of the band and melodic power metal in general.