Review | Elegy – Supremacy [Vinyl]
Debut album `Labyrinth of Dreams’ skyrocketed Elegy in Asia, with the European Mediterranean area following closely. The band reinforced their power metal with different stylistics and steered away from their classic hard rock songwriting breaking into new territory. `Supremacy’ is the record that first crystalizes this approach reassuring their status in the land of the rising sun. With axe wizard Henk van der Laars joined by new guitarist Gilbert Pot, the band claws deeper into the metal realm.
With their recent reunion acknowledging their timeless character, and Night of the Vinyl Dead and No Dust Record’s recent vinyl editions adding volumes, Greek label Alone Records reached out to resuscitate the rest of the band’s legacy.
The stunning artwork from Eric Kusters does jump out immediately. His airbrush artwork is still eye-popping although the 12” size seems to be an inflated and grainy representation from the cd art. This especially shows on the back-cover with the band photo not really doing justice to the re-issue of the album. Luckily the pristine black vinyl is shiny black and the label with cover-art does look stunning.
But hey; it is all about the music here. Gone is the condensed cd audio, in comes the organic sound of the vinyl. More power in the lows and more dynamics on the bass and drum parts bring forward the classic tracks on `Supremacy’, of which I admit it somewhat turned me off at the time of release.
FLIRTS WITH MELODIC ROCK
Rediscovered for their reunion concert I was pleasantly surprised how well the songs on the album held up, and the vinyl’s organics do the rest. It makes for a great listening experience and warps me back in time only to find how well constructed the songs really are. The note dazzling unload on ,,Windows of the World” sets lose a guitar frenzy in the finest shred tradition. Ponderous drums with insane double bass bombardments balance the music on the speed metal edge. Benchmark are Henk’s signature high pitched licks and short solos that find counterpart on the dual layered harmonies. Eduard Hovinga’s helium high execution is trademark of times past, when Angra, Agent Steel and Crimson Glory ruled the airwaves.
On the choruses Elegy has their typical flirts with melodic rock as the structures are insanely nesting. The proof of their musical wizardry however is in the middle. Intricate solo and riff execution amidst keyboard-colored symphonic sections with varying emotions and tempo at their disposal. All is hammered solid by Dirk Bruinenberg’s insane drum interaction, switching double bass and floors with insanely dynamic tom interplay. Adding to the sonic cocktail are Martin Helmantel’s popping bass lines, full of audible discharge, weaving into structural melodies and more classic bass lines closing the gaps between drum and guitar.
This is best heard on the following ,,Angels Grace”, where he safe guards the low end with an ear popping signature style. Much like a cross blend of Geddy Lee and Billy Sheehan Martin unleashes an impressive bass dynamic bridging the songs semi pace and speedy combustions. It also displays Eduard’s vocal spread, moving away from the piercing highs to inject ominous low gut-wrenching sections. The orchestration is excellent and the riffs are powerful and fierce. When van der Laars and Pot reach the solo section they suddenly climb the fretboard with insane harmonies and twins that even so suddenly fall prey to acoustic fiddling. Colorful, and for that time, it was pretty ground-breaking.
Rousing outcalls at to the raucous slow meandering tenure. Leaning more on keyboards, ,,Poisoned Hearts” is entirely different; Drums galloping, guitars break to the front and bass is again colorful. Kept is the speedy tendency, but the all over signature is jazzy crafting into pompous melodic choruses. Brisk breaks and instrumental passages halt to see great soloing building into spiralling height over the lush drummed backbone.
ELEGY – THE BEST POWER METAL TRACK
Breaking even further from the speed metal signature is the emotional piano opened ,,Lust for Life”, with Eduard shing brightly in the lower registers. Touching deep, his voice reveals a scruffier edge, and when the band joins in he only merely powers up to maintain the emotional conveyance. 3 Minutes in the song starts to build toward power-ballad tendencies unloading a blistering solo. This channelling of emotions finds connection on the following ,,Anouk”, on which Henk touches Malmsteen and Friedman. The short instrumental dies out into one of the best power metal tracks of that time: ,,Circles in the Sand”. Crunchy riffs and intricate solos, memorable licks and hooks amidst turbulent double bass execution. The vocals are helium high at times, but soot the outcome. The bridge and chorus are nesting, as are the melody lines.
Jagged opening, ,,Darkest Night” strays from the previous song. Very proggy breaks and time changes under the jagged riff and harsh phrased vocal melody give it a different feel, with guitars weld to the bass licks rather than drums. Lead guitars piled on sturdy riffs, pull it forward. Hovinga changes high notes and wailing parts into more AOR-ish singing, putting a mark on the feeling of the song. Strumming into the solo we hear exquisite marksmanship, way ahead of their time. Remember, this was originally released in 1994.
The short keyboard – vocal track ,,Close Your Eyes” is feeling a bit out of place, but when the title track of the record hits, is forgotten instantly. Mega-melodic in its welling, the song conveys emotion but is propelled by intricate guitars and bass. Helmantel takes the front underneath Hovinga’s vocals in the refrain before going all in for the bridge and chorus. Rousing dark, with progressive accolades and innate technicality, the song enrols like a prog freight train going rogue. Without losing its melodic stagnant appeal, the song thunders onwards into the album closer ,,Erase Me”, which is opened with lush guitar picking.
It’s another 7-minute plus song gradually building its grandeur with instrumentation powering up ominous tension. Wailing it out on intense height Hovinga touches emotional as bass ploughs underneath acoustic guitars in the middle. Rattling military drums make this section reoccur towards the end, making the song go out with intrinsic drama.
ELEGY – THE CONCLUSION
I was once turned off slightly by the album, but I am glad to have rediscovered `Supremacy’ as it might be one of the most challenging melodic power metal albums of that era. It widened melodic horizons and laid out a new direction for many bands to follow. Very intense, great guitar shredding and insane guitar melodies make it especially memorable. With Dirk Bruinenberg at the drums, you are secured of the right groove and rhythmic time changes being executed colorfully and with insane precision. But for some reason this is the album that saw the rise of one of rock’s best bass players in the field: Martin Helmantel. He managed to put his mark on the music bringing the same skills and art to the front as the guitar wizardry at hand. And that, is insane!
Even though the artwork wasn’t enhanced with modern day techniques, it still makes this album an eye-popping release. What makes it even better is the orange vinyl version, matching the colorful stripes on the front. I eagerly await a picture disc version of this album…
All photos by Edwin van Hoof