Album Title: Bloodlines
Label: AFM Records
Date of Release: 23 June 2023
Over the years, Pyramaze have slowly become one of my favourite bands, albeit in a quiet, understated manner. That’s not to say that their music is either quiet or understated, but they have managed to push their way further and further into my affections with a steady stream of high-quality music, beginning with 2008’s ‘Immortal’ when the Danish outfit fully caught my attention thanks to the presence of ex-Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow on lead vocals. However, it’s the last two albums, 2017’s ‘Contingent’, followed by 2020’s ‘Epitaph’ that have made the greatest impact upon me, both receiving glowing review and high scores into the bargain.
It is perhaps no surprise that the latter-day output of Pyramaze is so good. Not only have the band boasted a stable line-up since 2015, but the quartet is littered with talent, featuring Terje Harøy on lead vocals, Jonah Weingarten on keyboards, Morten Gade Sørensen behind the drumkit, and Jacob Hansen handling guitar and bass duties, not to mention the production, too.
Naturally, having loved ‘Epitaph’ so much, expectations were very high for their follow-up, their xth, entitled ‘Bloodlines’. And, I have to be honest, I started out with a significant amount of disappointment, with the first couple of spins thoroughly underwhelming me. On ‘Epitaph’, I was treated to tracks like ‘Particle’ and ‘World Foregone’, songs that hit me hard right out of the gate and have kept providing me with pleasure since, not to mention the chills and goosebumps with alarming frequency. At first, it felt like ‘Bloodlines’ didn’t deliver anything quite as immediate as this, and I was utterly bummed.
The silver lining of waiting ages to write a review is that sometimes, an initial view can be completely turned on its head, and that’s what has happened here. Without the pressure of having to review the album, I have listened to it like a fan for some weeks and I’ve discovered a whole new side to this record. The band did go on record with ‘Epitaph’ to say that it might be their most accessible release to date, and with ‘Bloodlines’ the narrative is different, with the band referencing the fact that it is more of a mix of different parts of the band’s career. This I can attest to and, whilst it may not have immediately lit the fires underneath me, it has doggedly and relentlessly worked on me to the point where I have now taken it to my heart.
The opening composition is the title track and it’s an instrumental full of cinematic colour and vibrancy, where orchestration initially sets a grandiose tone that carries with it a vague Kamelot feel. When the metal instrumentation kicks in, it blends well with the cinematic overtones, really getting the blood pumping and raising the expectation levels for what’s to follow.
And what initially follows is ‘Taking What’s Mine’ that kicks off with a down tuned, rumbling riff that is not dissimilar to latter-day Evergrey in its muscularity. Surrounding it though, is more bold orchestration, and a powerful rhythm section comprised of authoritative bass and drums. When Terje Harøy enters, though, the music suddenly becomes nothing other than a Pyramaze track, his unmistakeable voice adding to the power, and elevating the melodic nature of the music to a whole other level, particularly within the central chorus. But it’s the higher notes that he unleashes later, a mixture of fury and frustration evident in his tones, where he captures my full attention, sending a shiver or two up and down my spine in the process.
‘Fortress’ follows with another grandiose cinematic intro that launches into a swift, bouncing power metal rhythm that’s rather infectious. Sørensen’s drumming, in particular, is noteworthy as it delightfully drives the song along at a fair lick at points, eventually underpinning a cracking chorus that eventually gets under my skin, and begs a damn good sing-along. In the latter stages, Harøy provides a devastating long note that again gives me chills in a good way, whilst the ubiquitous key change adds a greater sense of the anthemic to an already strong melodic metal song.
Having previously suggested that there were, at least initially, no immediately killer songs of the ilk of Pyramaze’s predecessor, I now feel that this might be down to the fact that the quality across the board is so high, rather than the material being less memorable. I don’t feel the need to skip any of the songs on ‘Bloodlines’, and I derive pleasure from many different moments on the record. And, with so many listens under my belt now, there are a few songs that deserve to be singled out.
First up is the lead single, ‘Broken Arrow’, a song that I heard many months ago on YouTube and felt rather disappointed by at that point. Now, though, it’s one of the album’s best, delivering a disarmingly catchy chorus once it gets its hooks in the listener. The melodies are very strong once they become a touch more familiar, but Harøy brings a unique aspect to it that elevates it higher than it might otherwise reach. Again, the mix of heavy riffs, layered keys, and muscular rhythms all come together to thoroughly win me over and provide one of the most infectious tracks the band have delivered. How wrong I initially was, it seems.
Another stand-out is the song entitled ‘Stop The Bleeding’. Nestled in the back end of the album, its placement threatens it being overlooked, but do so at your peril because this is Pyramaze at their mesmerising best. In fact, I may need to revise my comments regarding nothing hitting the heights of ‘Particle’, because over the course of time, ‘Stop The Bleeding’ has kicked my arse, delighted me, and stopped me in my tracks when least expected. I like the fact that it plays with light and shade so powerfully, whilst it is blessed with the kind of chorus that begs to be sung at the top of your lungs, although with a voice like mine, I don’t recommend doing so on a busy train when dressed in a three-piece work suit. Trust me.
Even the ballad ‘Alliance’ that features a guest appearance from Ad Infinitum’s Melissa Bonny to duet with Harøy, is a success. It contains some strong melodies and sumptuous performances from the two vocalists, whilst also having enough of a metallic spine to avoid it becoming too syrupy and sweet.
If I had anything negative to say, it might be that having two of the ten songs as instrumentals feels slightly disappointing. Admittedly, the closing piece, ‘Wolves Of The Sea’ is a magnificent companion piece to the opener, and is a cinematic powerhouse in its own right. However, I think on balance, I’d have liked another classic Pyramaze metal track.
This minor misgiving aside, I have to conclude that Pyramaze have done it again and have delivered a fantastic melodic, symphonic power metal record. With consummate performances from every corner of the band, deceptively skilful songwriting, addictive melodies, and an incredibly adept and majestic performance from Terje Harøy, oner of the strongest male vocalists currently in heavy metal, ‘Bloodlines’ is the latest addition to an increasingly high quality discography, further cementing Pyramaze’s reputation as one of the very best bands within their chosen genre. This is marvellous.
The Score of Much Metal: 92%
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