Seeing as it wasn’t that long ago that the shores of this artist’s lead guitarist’s side project, “Holy Knights,” fell into my lap for review, and it seemed only fitting that I reacquaint myself with his long running main project. For those unfamiliar with this Italian Symphonic Power Metal artist, allow me to bring you up to speed; soaring vocal lines and galloping riffs abound, expect no shortage of neo-classical guitar solos and epic keyboard lines – but don’t go mistaking them for many of their fluffy contemporaries. With plenty of bass and a crashing of the war drums, “Thy Majestie” love nothing more than their epic historical battles, taking tales from the likes of ‘Joan of Arc’ and ‘The Battle of Hastings’ and re-telling them with a cinematic atmosphere, complete with orchestral arrangements and a bittersweet pride in the nobility of their often bloodthirsty actions.
Fans following their career, patiently waiting the four years it took to make this album, will likely have noticed something rather notable about the album title this time around. “Thy Majestie” have left Europe for the tale of ‘Shi Huang;’ the first emperor of China. He conquered the land through war until the entire nation was under his control, burning books and scholars in order to maintain the stability of his rule – it’s a grand topic that could easily span multiple albums. The controversial decisions that he was forced into making so as to maintain the peace in a nation that had for so long been divided… but little of this gets touched upon and the lyrics and music seem to use him more as an inspiration than developing the concept around him. There is little in the way of regional folk influences within the music; short of the occasional flourishes, they sound much like any other Western Power Metal artist. It’s in this, which forms the largest disappointment for me with this release; seeming reluctant to push themselves into new territory, they edge forward all too cautiously (when I was hoping they’d jump in with both feet) and produce an album with an inherent conflict at its core, but with the music rarely reflecting the subject matter.
If you manage to look past this issue – and perhaps it’s best we all but ignore the concept altogether – then there is a wealth of talent still to offer. With the departure of the keyboardist and vocalist since their last album leaving mighty large holes to fill, you can rest assured that their replacements are, if anything, stronger than their predecessors ever were. The marriage between the keys and the guitars remain an integral component to their overarching sound and yet they never feel anything but a natural fit; the keys perhaps stealing a little of the limelight in constantly emerging with a diverse array of choral passages and atmospheric synth lines, often harmonising with the guitars to provide a rich dual-pronged attack and only pulling back when the guitars go into overdrive, proving that if he was holding anything back from his work in “Holy Knights” it was only to save it for now. The vocals, too, lack little in producing those empowering, sweeping soprano lines to which we’ve come to expect – perhaps only lacking in strength compared to the best in the genre – but displays a dynamic range to his vocals, using a deeper snarl and a contemplative gentler tone to ensure he always has somewhere to build up to.
Oddly, despite their competency (and my initial disappointment) they often fail to do much to separate themselves from what’s come before them, producing a diverse album but lacking in catchy chorus lines or in producing much that’s unique from their predecessors. But it is this lack of memorability that often ends up working to their advantage. Having failed to remember how the track plays out, each repeated listen feels comparatively fresh and ultimately only serves to keep the piece interesting, which in a genre that so often reeks of unoriginality, gives it a surprisingly long shelf life. So long as you’re content with them sticking to the tried and tested format, then once again they prove themselves up to the task. And whilst they may still not be pushing themselves into any new territory, neither are they stagnating; the music feeling as powerful, diverse, epic and addictive as ever. Content to sit amongst their best work, once again “Thy Majestie” have proven themselves to be one of the most consistent and underrated gems of the genre.
Highlights: Walls of the Emperor, Farewell, Ephemeral
About the Author
Position: Reviewer, Ranter, Reluctant Co-Editor
Location: London, England
Genre Preferences: Progressive, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Technical, Djent, Trad, Black
Favourite Artists: Adagio, Anthem, Baroness, Chthonic, Death Angel, Decadence, Fjoergyn, Gargoyle (Jpn), Haken, Kalevala, Leprous, Lucifugum, Pin-Up Went Down, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, Project Hate MCMXCIX, Redemption, Sigh, Sikth, Tesseract, Thy Catafalque, Von Hertzen Brothers, Zigoku Quartet
Having held an internet presence using this alias for over a decade now, odds are if you've come across the name in the past it was myself. As for my musical history I suppose it's appropriate to say I arrived on my obsession backwards, for years holding little more than disdain and derision for a genre so seemingly obsessed with pointless brutality over composition; the likes of Deftones, Korn and Slipknot that serves as an introduction for so many flooding my musical palette, deterring my interests and yielding my only interpretation of what the genre involved. Ironically, it was Cannibal Corpse's “Vile” that first corrected me; played at high volume at a youth club by an elder metal fan angrily pushing the bleeding ears of the Green Day fans away from the stereo. I left that day clutching borrowed copies of Children of Bodom's “Hatebreeder,” the aforementioned Cannibal Corpse album, Metallica's “Cunning Stunts” on VHS and a whole new musical interest.
Arriving at a number of forums, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge, progressing through the stages of opinionated idiot to an arrogant elitist on a crusade before finally calming down, chronicling the last four years of my journey of discovery with self-published reviews. In the decade since my initial discovery, my tastes have mellowed and expanded to encompass most of the metal genre and beyond, constantly in search of something new and exciting, always seeking to expand my own musical knowledge. Black Metal with a Didgeridoo? Death Metal Disco? Trance Metal? Sign me up. I also have a strange obsession regarding the music of Asia, but I can't explain that one.
I have long since devoted far too much of my time writing - much to the amusement of my family who note the science-obsessed child now does far more writing than the English Lit. student - and have been self-publishing reviews since 2008; archives of music reviews can be found here and Film can be found here, though since joining Axis both have largely become defunct. I'm a keen globetrotter and, too, document my travels here, on an old blog originally designed to publish a novel that was abandoned due to time constraints.