There is a single, unpalatable reason why Iron Maiden’s popularity waned in the UK in the mid-nineties and yet remained as high as ever in central Europe, and that reason is that here in the UK we’re all too keen to follow the disingenuous taste makers of the music press rather than simply recognise great music for what it is regardless of fashion. The upshot is that, whilst purveyors of melodic power metal flourish on the continent, here in the UK power metal is still regarded with a wary eye (unless you’re Dragonforce), which is a great shame because when done well, power metal can be one of heavy metal’s most invigorating genres, often attracting only the most talented of musicians due to the technical demands of the music.
One such outfit is the ultra-proficient, ultra-talented Cyclophonia, a power metal hailing from Norway who worship at the altar of Helloween, Manowar and Blind Guardian. Originally formed way back in 1997, it has taken a long time for the band to find their way and it was only in 2008 that a stable line up emerged and they were able to set down their debut platter in the form of ‘Impact is imminent’. Whatever internal strife led to the multiple line-up changes and fooling around is entirely absent from this album, however, which proves to be a huge, neon scream of over-the-top metallic delights from start to finish, so leave your cynicism behind and prepare to step into the brightly coloured world of Cyclophonia.
Opening with the title track, the first thing you notice as a fast-paced riff announces the band’s arrival is the beautifully crisp and clean production. With the guitars of Oystein Kvile Hanssen and Havar Robertson set to stun via the sheer quotient of mind-blowing (and fret-bothering) solos, what sets Cyclophonia apart from their peers is their decision to employ not one, but two mighty lunged vocalists in the form of Andreas Angell and Kai Joar Kristensen. This opens up whole new opportunities for the band who have the advantage of being able to perform their heavily layered songs live without the aid of playback, whilst the clear abilities of both vocalists sees each one pushing the other to deliver their very best with the result that the whole band make a joyful noise indeed; melodic, memorable and delivered with a fiery passion, we can only be glad they finally sorted out their differences long enough to unleash this album upon us. After such a powerful opening we move to the none-more-metal ‘Warbird’ which does a great job of juxtaposing the more lower register vocals with the soaring chorus on a track reminiscent of Helloween covering Maiden’s ‘flight of Icarus’. Whilst the fashion police may, by this point, be preparing to snigger, it is clear that Cyclophonia simply do not care what the dictates of fashion have to say and they attack their music with such gusto that only the most misanthropic of souls (or those with a deep seated hatred of rock ‘n’ roll in general) could fail to be moved by it.
Having set the tone so admirably, next up is ‘the mirror’ which feels and sounds like an anthem in the making, the hard edged guitars backing up the vocals which are delivered with just the right mix of melody and bite to keep things interesting. Once again, it’s a close run thing as to what impresses the most, the gloriously tight, harmonised guitar runs or the brilliantly paired vocals and in the end you have to concede defeat as the thought occurs that it is all brilliant. It’s so powerful and drenched with the blood and sweat of the performers that you simply get sucked into the brightly lit world that Cyclophonia inhabit without even noticing it. ‘Retaliate’ (featured at the foot of this review) is far and away the shortest song here at just two and a half minutes, but it still makes its mark with its searing vocals and old-school guitar chops ringing away with real power and authority. If any one song recalls the garish ghost of the eighties then surely it is monumental power ballad ‘The hero’ which would be cheesy if only it wasn’t delivered with such chest-beating sincerity and backed up by such stormingly powerful music, so that instead of sounding like a parody it simply sweeps you along and you end up singing the chorus with at least as much vigour as the band’s very own singers.
Having gained the sing-along vote, the band launch into ‘hand of the righteous’ as if their lives depend on it, Nikolai Ursin’s drums beating out a martial tattoo as the guitars slice and tear like razor blades, although that ever present sense of melody does not desert the band and the music they make sounds every bit as inspired and as exciting as Maiden back when they recorded ‘seventh son…’. ‘Screams in the night’ is equally powerful with its minor-key menace sitting somewhere between Blind Guardian and Queensryche, before another inspired chorus is dashed out with an alarmingly casual attitude (as if the band imagine everyone can simply craft songs of this quality) guaranteeing that audiences the world over will have one more reason to leave a Cyclophonia gig with their throats raw from screaming along in unison to each and every song the band unleash. It’s over all too soon, unfortunately, and the unerringly heroic ‘die by my sword’ closes the album a mere thirty-five minutes after it stormed through your speakers and you have no option but to press play once more and let the joyous music wash over you once again.
It’s hard to pin point exactly when the keepers of taste and fashion decided that music had to be deadly serious, but Cyclophonia come armed with the simple message that it doesn’t have to be that way and they’ve backed up that message with a seemingly endless supply of inspired riffs, astonishing vocals and hooks that your average metal band would willingly die for. ‘Impact is imminent’ is a massive adrenalin rush, possessed of a wonderful, life-affirming passion for all things metal and, above all, it is fun. Glorious, lung-bursting, screaming in the car, the shower and the local venue, fun. If you have but a drop of heavy metal pumping through your veins then you need to check out Cyclophonia , they could well become your new favourite band.