Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tanagra - None of This Is Real

Fantasy themed power metal of the European variety is not something that we, here in the States, are used to. Even more so, there seems to be a shortage of this in the genre altogether since a lot of the European bands that started out playing power metal have abandoned their power metal roots for a more "artistic" approach. In other words, they suck now. To me, there is nothing like some speedy, riff driven power metal with soaring vocals and lyrics about fantasy, history, chivalry, etc. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Portland, Oregon has been trying to keep this incredible young band, Tanagra, all to themselves. Well sorry Portland. I found them and I'm about to tell the world about them.

I love a band that can be ambiguous when it comes to their lyrical approach as well as the meaning behind their name. The band could be named after an island from the original Star Trek series or it could be named after the town near Athens, Greece where ancient terracotta figurines were found dating back to the fourth century BCE. What I can say about this band is that their music speaks volumes about who this band truly are. Their debut album, curiously titled None of This Is Real, is some epic, riff laden, melodic power metal that is a breath of fresh air to a metal fan like me. Not since my discovery of Noble Beast has an album impressed me like this. Coming right out of the gate with "The Undying Light" we have a speedy intro to the song with an infectiously melodic lead guitar working it's way to the verse. At that point the song the riffs do the talking while the galloping rhythm is the just the perfect hook to make this song stand out. There is some keyboards just slightly in the mix during the chorus to provide atmosphere. The vocals are a nice and clean, very melodic, and remind me of Atlantean Kodex in places. If this song is any indication of the rest of the album then I am in for a real treat.

And what a treat it is because the rest of the album is pure gold. The riffing never lets up and those incredibly infectious melodies never let up. The verse from "Tyranny of Time" is catchy as fuck and the melody of the chorus is even more catchy. There are some gang vocals that seem slightly out of place but they make up for it with the "whoa" choirs that remind me of early HammerFall. The soloing is godly...and that carries a lot of weight with me. The guitar work never lets up whether it's the awesome riffs, the solos, or the harmonized leads, these guys are good. They have an epic side that they pull off quite well as seen on the eight plus minutes opus, "Antietam." As someone who not only loves history but has lived near this historic place and toured the battlefields where so many lives were lost in the bloodies day in American history, this song does it justice in it's lyrical approach as well as in the melodies...enough to give me goose bumps. Starting out with some clean guitars and the snare drum sound that you might hear in a battle of old, the epic dual lead guitars come in and begin the song. The riffs are as solid as always and keep the song flowing. The vocalists emotions are all over this song going from clean to gruff when he gets really emotional. The slower, more ballad sound towards the end is emotional with a clean guitar solo adding another layer of atmosphere. This band knows how to tell a story in a song.

And they don't stop there with the epic sound. "Bitter Earth" is another eight minute epic that never lets up and has enough layers to keep you interested. Some might have issues with the song lengths but these songs are telling stories. A song like the album closer, the monstrously epic "The Path to Talmor" is a song that is telling a specific story and I think that if they cut anything out of it then that would compromise the integrity of the song. I guess my attention span is great than some because these long epic songs are perfect the way they are. Maybe :10:04 Pm" could have been trimmed down a bit but even there it just seems right for what the band is trying to say. I guess that I grew up on 70s prog rock and some of those songs were entire album sides so long songs are just fine in my book...if they are done right. This band is ambitious and this album is proof that ambition will take you a long way. I'm already looking forward to a follow up.

So what we have is a damn fine debut by a band that seems intent on putting the USA back on the power metal map, and that's just fine with me. If you like riff heavy epic power metal then you must get this album. This is one of those albums that, I think, should be a classic one day.


No comments: