Sunrise – Equilibria (Album Review)

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A triumphant throwback arises.

When someone drops a name like Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica in familiar conversation regarding European power metal, it’s a foregone conclusion that 9 out of 10 people will know the bands and much of their accomplishments. However, when delving into the equally competent and somewhat younger crowd that has been keeping the old ways in said style going in Eastern Europe and beyond since the mid-2000s, it’s a bit less common to hear the average consumer of the sub-genre to spout a long anecdote about their material or catching one of their live performances, especially outside of the band’s respective country. For their part, the Ukrainian-born and speed metal-infused melodic powerhouse act that is Sunrise has been at the game since 2003 and fielded their first opus “Liberty” a few years later, making some waves in their locale and catching the eyes of a small segment of online media, but staying nestled in the underground for much of their career while putting out additional albums sporadically and building up to a gradual crescendo.

With the release of their fourth studio LP “Equilibria”, while still being wholly independent, this quintet has fired a pretty massive shot off the metal world’s bow that may well prove a game-changer. Building off the template of Finnish power metal influences that have always defined their sound, which primarily include the two iconic bands mentioned previously, and further injecting them with an amped up dose of heaviness and speed, this just over an hour long rapid foray into what Euro-power was largely about 20 years ago just slays at every possible turn. Front man and co-founder Konstantin “Laars” Naumenko is all but a dead-ringer to the lovelorn and dramatic poet that Tony Kakko was during the days of “Silence” and “Winterheart’s Guild,” and is often accompanied by the smooth angelic foil of keyboardist and wife Daria “Lady Dea” Naumenko, whom also puts on a brilliant instrumental display reminiscent of Jens Johansson. But this album is the whole package, and the thunderous speed metal assault of the rhythm section and recently acquired guitarist Maksym Vityuk should not be discounted.

“Equilibria” Album Artwork

To present a familiar analogy, this opus could be likened to every fast and frenetic fit of triumph to have been put out by a northern European melodic act of note between 1995 and 2002, but bigger and heavier. Right from the blast of speed and melody that is the opening anthem “Wings Of The Dreamer”, the degree of polish and poise on display on display is nothing short of astonishing, and it doesn’t end with the last note of this grand introduction. High flying cruisers like “We Are The Fire” and “Life Is A Journey” could trade blows easily with timeless anthems like “Father Time” and “San Sebastian”, while the more heavy-ended crushers that are “Equilibrium” and “Unbroken Dreams” are maybe just a tad less explosively fast but equally impressive in terms of thematic development between the riff work and keyboards, channeling some parallels to the handiwork of Cloudscape. Even when things are taken at a tempo that is less than warp speed, as on the infectious mid-paced banger “The Shadow” and the somewhat chunkier and dense “Nightingale”, there is a constant sense of celebration and elation in each moment that just won’t let up.

Though the name Sunrise might not be on the tip of every power metal fan’s tongue, it should be following this towering work of classic speed and majesty. It’s an approach that is only occasionally dark and forbidding, but more often than not dwells upon the lighter and more uplifting side of the coin, making it more of a boon for those who prefer their metal loaded with keyboards and played at rapid fire tempos. It’s not wholly bereft of nuance, as there are occasional moments of respite to be found in more coasting power balladry such as heard on the haunting vocal duet “The Only Reason” and the piano-driven mid-paced pomp of “The Bell”, which points to a bit of a bit more of a subtle AOR and progressive rock influence. It generally goes without saying that the rank and file who have been displeased with Sonata Arctica’s output following 2004’s “Reckoning Night” and are also impatient for Stratovarius’ 6 year period of studio silence following “Eternal” are the target audience here, but the broader power and speed metal scene would also do well to take notice of this.

Released By: Independent
Released On: June 18th, 2021
Genre: Power Metal

Musicians:

  • Konstantin “Laars” Naumenko / Vocals
  • Daria “Lady Dea” Naumenko / Keyboards
  • Maksym Vityuk / Guitars

“Equilibria” track listing:

  1. Wings Of The Dreamer
  2. Equilibrium
  3. We Are The Fire
  4. Wild Swans
  5. Call My Name
  6. Unbroken Dreams
  7. Life Is A Journey (feat. Mayo Petranin)
  8. The Only Reason
  9. The Bridge Across Infinity
  10. The Shadow
  11. The Bell
  12. Nightingale
  13. Rebel Yell 

9.4 Excellent

Among one of the more polished and kinetic, albeit sporadically prolific power metal adherents to emerge in recent times, Ukraine’s Sunrise brings a riveting sound to the table on their fourth studio LP that reminisces upon the glory days of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica.

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5
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