The banner continues to fly.
Few subjects define the power metal sub-genre as completely as a grand crusade waged by a legion of plate-armor toting knights, and this has been the calling card of progressive-leaning Slovakian stalwarts Signum Regis since their 2007 inception. Though often compared to other Christian outfits such as fellow countrymen and more Stratovarius-styled Within Silence and the high-impact American impresario outfit Theocracy, this outfit tends a little closer to the heavier feel and neo-classical trappings of the early 2000s Swedish sound, and further mixing things up with a more complex approach to songwriting. They’ve seen some occasion shifts in lineup since their early days of being led by former Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Goran Edman, but since their 2019 LP “Seal Of A New World,” they’ve maintained a fairly stable lineup and have moved a bit closer to the Rising Force-inspired sound of their early days, carrying it over into their latest studio release.
The aptly named EP “Flag Of Hope” is not necessarily a new album given its initial independent release just last year, but now with the backing of Beyond The Storm Productions, which also handled the distribution of Kerion’s 2015 album “CloudRiders Part 2: Technowars,” this shorter entry has been given a meatier mastering job and two additional songs. As a collective package it is more of a collection of curiosities that plays a big more into the progressive side of this band’s sound, featuring a bit more balladry and passages of instrumental development showcasing the talents of the instrumentalists behind air-raid screamer Jota Fortinho. Nevertheless, the usual array of heroic anthems to a spiritual battle being waged on all fronts is all over this 32 minute collection, often reminding of the early days when Narnia and DivineFire were the primary game in the Christian power metal scene and were offering some formidable competition to similarly styled counterparts such as Insania and Cryonic Temple.
As with many offerings within the progressive paradigm, Signum Regis opts for something a bit straightforward upon which to play off of. The opening crusher “Given Up For Lost” kicks things off on a decidedly swift, galloping pace, and is generally simple in presentation apart from some flashier than usual lead guitar work out of Filip Kolus that would make Chris Impellitteri proud. The tuneful anthem and title song “Flag Of Hope” also strikes a fairly traditional melodic tone, but is a bit more expansive and generally smoother in feel. The intrigue begins to slip in with a rather brilliant and slightly heavier rendition of Angra’s seminal power ballad “Stand Away”, and arguably reaches its absolute fever pitch with the instrumental and Malmsteen-like guitar extravaganza “Voyage To The Distant Shores”. The haunting balladry with a folksy edge turned grinding wheel of heavy metal “Tune Of War” and the more consistently atmospheric “Amorenada”, which culminate in the additional material on this version also showcase a band will to step into less travelled territory.
While maybe not a typical EP after the mold of a single with more bonus tracks, there is a sense in which this album feels more like an addendum to “Seal Of A New World,” even though none of the songs heard on here were found on that album as well. It sort of ebbs and flows through heavier and lighter territory with a more randomized sense of pacing, though there is a clear sense of exposition at the beginning that finds an even clearer conclusion in 2 minute “Ave Maria”, which sees bassist Ronnie Konig adapting what sounds like a variant on a Cello prelude by J.S. Bach to the traditional worship tune like a perfect brushing of paint over a grand cathedral wall. With 14 years of solid output and the wind at their backs, Signum Regis has continued to carry a powerful and varied take on the sound originally pioneered by Helloween with a late 80s Malmsteen flourish that is sure to continue paying dividends as the 2020s unfold.
Released Date: May 14th, 2021
Released By: Beyond The Storm Productions
Genre: Power Metal / Melodic Metal
- Jota Fortinho / Lead vocals
- Filip Koluš / Guitars
- Ronnie König / Bass
- Ján Tupý / Keyboards, backing vocals
- Jaro Jančula / Drums
“Flag Of Hope” tracklisting:
- Given Up For Lost
- Stand Away
- Yoyage to the Distant Shores
- Flag of Hope
- Tune of War
- Ave Maria (Bonus Track)
A revolving door of front men and a changing musical landscape has done little to dissuade this progressive-tinged, power metal stalwart outfit from raising the banner of triumph, and this remixed and expanded EP wants for nothing in the melodic splendor and technical intrigue department