Releases from bands such as Twilight Force, Freedom Call, Rhapsody of Fire, Avantasia, Hammerfall, and Sabaton might overshadow the release of Ancient Empire’s 2019 album Wings of the Fallen, but make no mistake, this is power metal at its finest. The chugging flight of riffs, fiery rhythms and epic guitar and vocal harmonies spread the entirety of the album like a nice layer of . Even after the first listen, the music keeps getting better.
Like their previous albums, the music is straight heavenly melodic singing and interspersed with equally melodic and well-written guitar solos, particularly on the title track and the song “Born In Fire”, where the solos are attached to the songs and not just thrown in as extras. I would draw comparisons to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in the lead guitar aspects of the album. In terms of rhythm guitars, it is like a mixture between Judas Priest and Rush, where the guitarist will switch between slow-churned chords (like soft-serve Ice cream) or picked out notes (like “You Got Another Thing Coming”).
Whilst power metal can often become overly happy (especially with the likes of Freedom Call and Power Quest, heroic!), this release is very somber in nature, themes that reflect well in the song titles. “Wings of the Fallen”, “Edge of the Abyss”, and “The Ghosts Remain” bring thoughts of a world torn asunder by catastrophic war. On “The Last Survivor”, the story of the last human comes about. Lines like “the shadows seem alive / all humans gone now” indicate the climax of the apocalypse. With the majority of humanity gone, does survival mean anything beyond simply living to die? Or in this story, will the returning survivors carry on?
The theme of coming doom or arrived doom has been on multiple power metal releases since the dawn of the genre. Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1 and 2 by Helloween spoke of an unnamed protagonists fate to keep the seven keys away from Satan, ensuring the survival of humankind from demons. the title track off the album Imaginations from the Other Side and the concept album Beyond the Red Mirror by Blind Guardian tells the story of a world on the verge of losing its individuality and imagination, subsequently enticing a quiet apocalypse. Another recent album focusing on this theme as well is Vision Divine’s 2012 album Destination Set to Nowhere, where a group of people and the narrator of the album leaves Earth to colonize another world, citing his reasons to leave regarding the corruption of the Earth.
It’s a theme in metal all around, and, despite the peppy stigma that power metal receives, it’s also a theme in metal’s “happiest” genre. Which, I guess, means that power metal can also be dark too. Although, most power metal bands that write music of somber nature usually wrap up the music with some message of hope or newfound story. This is also what Ancient Empire does on this record.
Alas, Ancient Empire is a fantastic band, and with only 5 releases, four in the last 3 years, I suspect that, with a little more time, they’ll become a household name in both the power metal and international community at large. Wings of the Fallen is another great release by the band, right next to Other World, my second favorite album by the band.