Onward to towers afar.
Though legends tend to emerge from a lofty landscape on the wings of a bard’s melody, it is more the exception than the rule that the bard himself become the object of awe. So too is it with power metal’s many impressive storytellers, as the songs they weave seem so larger than life that one is wont to forget the prowess of the virtuoso fold behind them.
But the peculiar case of Hellenic power metal rising star outfit Sacred Outcry is one of intrigue unto itself, owing in no small part due to a rather unique redemption arc that saw the band fold in the midst of the second wave of power metal after crafting only a couple demos, only to come raging back with a completed LP mostly composed 20 years prior in 2020’s “Damned For All Time.”
The impressive blend of heavy-hitting US power metal influences and high-octane European flair set this Greek outfit apart from the pack and arguably culminated in the best album of its year, and with 3 years now having past, this mythic powerhouse has returned to up the ante even further with a riveting follow up dubbed “Towers Of Gold.”
Ironically enough, for most of the membership of this obscure dark horse from the early 2000s the 2020 album that many have come to see as a game-changer was a one-off project to finish what had been started so far back, as now only bassist George Apalodimas remains from the original lineup. But much like his most obvious forerunner Joey DeMaio, he has managed to keep the original fire roaring and brought in a whole new collective of highly competent musicians, among them guitarist Steve Lado (who had a guest performance on the debut) and kit-destroying drumming virtuoso Defkalion Dimos, forming a core instrumental arrangement to rival that of Manowar.
However, the most pivotal recruit of the fold is that of glass-shattering vocal impresario and former Lost Horizon helmsman Daniel Heiman, arguably the most iconic singer to rise from the European power metal scene since Michael Kiske. To say that the sonic potential of this union of craftsmen would be formidable would itself be the understatement of the decade, and at every possible point said potential is fully realized.
At every possible turn, this is an album that takes every existing sword and sorcery trope common to power metal and amplifies them by a factor of 10, bridging the divide between the campiness of the 2nd wave stylings of Blind Guardian and Rhapsody Of Fire with the older, grimier trappings of Omen and Cirith Ungol. Densely orchestrated backdrops adorn melancholy acoustic guitar passages like a small band of adventurers sharing folk tales by the campfire amid an approaching storm, contrasted by a pummeling battery of metallic riffs, beats, and an over-the-top vocal performance that would be the envy of every superhuman singer of metal’s past, from Crimson Glory’s Midnight to Manowar’s Eric Adams.
To be sure, Daniel Heiman had gone on to front many bands of considerable talent following his exodus from Lost Horizon, but this is the closest he has come to matching his former glory with said band in the years since. It’s just one epic moment after the next, with the time measured in between rounded out by instances of somber balladry that proves no less substantial.
The colossal character of the songwriting on display here is matched only by the sheer vividness of the story being told, as each song possesses multiple titles to further flesh out the otherworldly deeds being chronicled. Following a mournful expositional introduction dubbed “Through Lands Forgotten”, the opening foray at full speed that is “The Flame Rekindled” fires both tubes and underscores the spirit of triumph and rebirth at this album’s heart, and stands as but one of the many high octane power metal anthems with an infectious edge and a thundering attack to adorn this record.
One would be remiss not to note the heavy level of Hellenic musical devices at play amid the gallop-happy riffs and wailing vocals, almost as if channeling the old Greek pantheon while also paying homage to the works of Michael Moorcock. The similarly driving metal odes “The Voyage” and “Into The Storm” recap the same mixture of soaring melodies and power-driven metallic flair, as Heiman’s immortal pipes continually bounce between the earth and sky in rapid succession.
Though already having established itself as a veritable force of nature, this album just continues to build and ascend as it progresses. The slower and more balladic “Symphony Of The Night” proves no less riveting than its faster predecessors, though it accomplishes its impact through a gradual increase in intensity and a series of sweet melodic and technical passages courtesy of Lado’s masterful guitar work, often matching Heiman’s impressive vocal feats in terms of auspiciousness.
George’s prowess at the bass is given a chance to shine in Manowar-like fashion on the haunting epic number “The Sweet Wine Of Betrayal”, and in fact, the entire song stands as one of the more brilliant partial nods to the longer classic fair of said metal icons, with the guitar work also channeling classic Ross The Boss idioms. “The City Of Stone” treads a similarly mid-paced epic path, though the emphasis largely goes to Heiman’s inhuman vocal gymnastics and Lado’s highly expressive guitar work. Yet it all comes to a head with the gargantuan, 15-minute behemoth of a title anthem “Towers Of Gold”, which sees the entire quartet morph into the four horsemen of the apocalypse and turn in arguably the most astounding performance since Helloween’s “Halloween” more than 30 years prior.
The hype that has chased this album since its release back in May of 2023 has been palpable, yet also only scratches the surface of just what has been accomplished here. In much the same way as Lost Horizon’s much-heralded two albums set a standard in the early 2000s that the European power metal scene couldn’t hope to match, this album has raised the bar back to that same height. It’s only fitting that a nearly unanimous consensus has emerged in the online metal media circuit that this is not only the greatest power metal album to come out of 2023, but arguably one of the best metal albums to grace the scene as a whole in some time.
It isn’t an album that sets out to reinvent the wheel but rather fashions a set of wheels using existing schematics that are so perfectly realized that the chariot they adorn could not help but prevail in every battle that it sees. If there is one power metal album to hear from the prior year, it is this one, and despite the increasingly mercenary character of Daniel Heiman’s career of late, here is to hoping that this is a band that he sticks with for the foreseeable future
Released By: No Remorse Records
Release Date: May 19th, 2023
Genre: Power Metal
- George Apalodimas / Bass
- Steve Lado / Guitars
- Daniel Heiman / Vocals
- Defkalion Dimos / Drums
“Towers Of Gold“ Track-List:
- Through Lands Forgotten (At the Crossroads of Fate)
- The Flame Rekindled (Lurid Lights and Drunken Revelry)
- The Voyage (Towards Immortality)
- Into the Storm (Beyond the Lost Horizon)
- Symphony of the Night (The Curse of the Blind)
- A Midnight Reverie (Whispers in the Wind)
- The Sweet Wine of Betrayal (The Perennial Sin)
- The City of Stone (The Burden of the Crownless Kings)
- Towers of Gold (Tempus Edax Rerum)
- Where Crimson Shadows Dwell (And Ouroboros Dreamt)
Order “Towers Of Gold” HERE.
Following a riveting 2020 debut that was itself 20 years in the making, the Hellenic power metal scene’s rising star outfit Sacred Outcry ascends to even greater glory with an astounding sophomore outing, bridging the stylistic divide between the raw power of Manowar and the high-speed splendor of Helloween