~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Ha HA! Unlike many releases I've been subjected to recently, this thunderous blast of epic progressive operatic renaissance-folk power metal commands me to shake off my lethargy and leap into action! The sheer excitement that fills every track on 'Hastings 1066' is so energizing that I'm having difficulty restraining myself from ending all my sentences in exclamation points!
The album really is that exciting, especially the first time you listen to it. I'd even go so far as to recommend that if you intend to buy 'Hastings 1066' already, skip the rest of the review. You'll get your money's worth if you like power metal to even the smallest degree. The way the album opens shocked me so much upon hearing it that I almost jumped out of my chair in a crazed fervor, moved beyond coherent thought into a state where I was -this close- to running around like an idiot, my arms flailing in the air while I made little happy noises. Knowing what to expect from the album would diminish the impact it'll have on you upon first hearing it. Don't take that to mean that shock-value is all 'Hastings 1066' has to offer... far from it, in fact. For me, though, it was rather like going to see a movie that I didnt expect to blow me away, only to wind up utterly discombobulated by what I actually saw.
I'm generally wary of reviews that are too positive, gushing at length about the virtues of a particular album. It's probably human nature to think 'oh yeah? There's no way I'll be that impressed no matter how good it is!'. Nevertheless, there is no area where Thy Majestie falls short on this monolithic concept album. I was actually too busy being flabbergasted by the music itself to pay much attention to the 'concept', which unsurprisingly follows the events and characters surrounding the battle of Hastings (a decisive conflict in English history). From a technical and artistic standpoint, Thy Majestie hits all the right notes and the result is a thoroughly compelling album that should have broad appeal to metal fandom.
Oddly, the band themselves aren't the real stars of 'Hastings 1066'. That distinction belongs to the Teatro Massimo Choir, an operatic choir who steal the show as they provide stirring choral accompaniment to most of the tracks on the album. Actually, saying they're merely 'stirring' does them a disservice. The Teatro Massimo Choir provides as powerful and driving a performance as I've ever heard in any context. With an effort worthy of any Hollywood film score, the choir utterly rocks as they belt out Latin lyrics and infuse the music with a sweeping grandeur that otherwise would have been impossible to obtain. Their inclusion gives the whole album the feel of an epic soundtrack that would make Conan or Gandalf proud.
It also came as something of a shock that Thy Majestie excercised enough restraint to prevent the album from veering into typical power metal excess. You know what I mean... power metal bands sometimes just go all goofy with their happy-metal bounciness and exuberant riffing. While 'Hastings 1066' is by no means a somber affair, it is nonetheless grounded in a certain seriousness that is largely a product of the dramatic choral vocals and singer Dario Grillo's mid-range delivery. If, say, Kai Hansen (and anyone who knows me knows I can't get enough of 'ol Kai) were at the helm of the good ship Majestie, the album might have wound up on the silly side of things. Dario and the Teatro Massimo Choir keep things below the stratosphere, where they rocket along on an invigorating jaunt through dangerous medeival times.
You might have got the impression by now that this album is full of surprising things... and if you did you'd be right. Continuing that trend are the oddly progressive keyboard stylings of Giuseppe Bondi, who at times seems to be channeling Dream Theater. You may think that sounds incongruous with the setting of the album's story (since spacey synth lines don't really evoke thoughts of castles and chainmail) but somewhow they worked for me and served to shoot yet another jolt of energy into my system as I listened. The album is also replete with some very prog-y time signatures and bass rhythms, coupling the odd beats with power metal melodies and operatic choir. It makes for quite a diverse, unexpected, and enjoyable listen.
The weirdness doesn't stop there, though, because just when you thought you had Thy Majestie's sound pegged... they drop in an interlude that sounds like you're at a renaissance fair. Medevil lutes and other era-appropriate instruments carry folky tunes that serve as intermissions between the full-speed musical assault that drives the album along.
Thy Majestie has cobbled together a disparate and unusual coupling of several genres that inexplicably mesh into a greater whole than the sum of the parts would seem to suggest. Fans of any of the non-death-obsessed schools of metal will likely find much to enjoy in the fifty-five minutes of sweeping epic melodies, grand choral performances, and crazy upbeat guitar noodling. In short, if you like exciting music that will lift your spirits, you should seek out this album and dive headlong into the rousing soundscape Thy Majestie has created.
Thy Majestie is:
Thy Majestie Official Website:
The End Records (US Distribution):