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[Review] InnerWish – InnerWish

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InnerWish – InnerWish

 

When bands start out and record their first album, often they’ll just release it as a self-titled CD, because they’re just beginning to define their identity, or perhaps they don’t have a unified theme to name the CD after.  Other times, they can’t decide which track on the CD best reflects the overall sound, style, and approach of the band, so they go with the easy option.  For bands that have been around a while, a self-titled album can be an easy cop-out to name an album, if none of the other ideas pan out.  Other times, in the case of bands like Dream Theater, the self-titled release is purposeful, as it intends to communicate that the name of the band is synonymous with the material on the album, and that it’s emblematic of what the band is all about, or a best representation of their sound.  With the latest, eponymously titled album from InnerWish, I tend to gravitate toward the latter idea.

 

Having reviewed the band’s album, “No Turning Back”, I now have a baseline for the band’s sound and abilities.  I had not heard any previous InnerWish material, though by all accounts, “Inner Strength” was a competent album that began to show promise for the Greek power metal collective.  I was quite taken with “No Turning Back”, and it quickly became my favorite power metal album of 2010, ever so slightly edging out former label-mates SinBreed and their debut “When Worlds Collide”, with former Seventh Avenue vocalist Herbie Langhans at the helm.  SinBreed’s debut was great, but InnerWish really clicked with me, so much so that the album remained in pretty heavy rotation, well after I had written my review of the CD, and continues to be an album I go back to when I’m looking for that modern power metal fix.  I’m not sure yet whether InnerWish’s eponymous effort will replace “No Turning Back” as my favorite album from the band, but certainly, it stands alongside that release as a strong, confident album that continues to position InnerWish as Greece’s premier power metal act.

innerwish

Guitarists Manolis Tsigos and Thimios Krikos are once again on full display, with strong riffs in tow, and some well-done solo work.  The guitars crunch with authority just like the previous album, and there is some really good lead work going on here in some songs, as well as some nice harmonizing between the two players in spots.  Bassist Antonis Mazarakis is here again as well, so his contributions are once again strong, though not a standout performance.  Georgios Georgiou is on keyboards again as well, and provides a lot of nice work here and there, and transitions nicely between more prominent bits like the intro to “Zero Ground”, and more background atmospherics.  New drummer Fragiskos Samoilis has a bit of an edge over his predecessor, as his technique is excellent, and he adds a lot of flair to the proceedings.  His double-bass abilities, along with his extensive rolls, give some of the faster songs a lot of additional “oomph” and add a nice touch.  Overall, the instrumentation on the album is, as with the preceding release, excellent.

 

New vocalist George Eikosipentakis sounds a fair bit like his predecessor, Babis Alexandropoulos, as George has a similarly gritty tone.  I would say that he does possess a richer overall vocal sound, however, because his voice appears to have a bit more depth than Babis displayed on “No Turning Back”.  His abilities are at least on par with what Babis brought to the table, though he doesn’t go for the major highs that Babis hit in spots, such as with “Sirens”, or the end of “Lawmaker” from the previous CD.  Still, I quite like George’s voice, and feel it melds in well with the material here, as well as fitting in with the band in general.  I suspect he pulls off the previous album’s material well in a live setting, if he sounds half as good there as he does here.  Overall, I’m quite pleased with his performance here, so hopefully he sticks around for the band’s next outing.

 

The thing this album has over its predecessor is that the band seems to be carving out more of their own identity here.  The previous album, as I mentioned in my review at the time, was steeped in a lot of the bog standard power metal cliches, and there are shades of Helloween and Hammerfall all over that album, though really well played and executed.  There’s a bit of that on this album, as “Sins of the Past” seems like the band’s simultaneous nod to both aforementioned bands, but otherwise, it sounds as though they’re relying less on emulating those bands, and more like they’re trying to carve out their own sound. It’s not entirely distinctive, as it still adheres to a lot of standard power metal tropes, but that’s not a knock against the band, as what they do, they do very well.  One other thing that helps their case this time around is that the lyrics focus more toward personal struggles and seeking peace/redemption/forgiveness/acceptance versus the mix of that and more fantasy themes.  To compare to the previous release, this album, lyrically speaking, is more “Burning Desires” and “The Signs Of Our Lives”, and less “Sirens” or “Lawmaker”.  That’s a good thing overall, because it helps unify the album a bit more, and based on the lyrical bent from track to track, almost gives the impression that the band were leaning toward a concept album, or at the very least, a thematic album with a bit of a story thread.  One final note on the lyrics: fans who are used to Ulterium Records’ usual releases of “Christian” themed lyrics, or at least stuff that’s considered “inoffensive” might be thrown by the inclusion of “what the Hell” in album opener “Roll the Dice”, but based on the lyrics in the song, it makes sense within context.  This won’t be a deal breaker for everyone, but just be aware of it, in case you’re sensitive to this kind of thing.

 

At the end of the day, this is a really good album that stands alongside its predecessor as a shining example of modern power metal in a sea of mediocre releases.  The front half of the album is so strong that the second half dips ever so slightly in quality, with a couple tracks that don’t stand out as much, but as quality as the material here is, that’s not really much of a criticism.  Sure, the album lacks a “Sirens”, and nothing here is quite as utterly infectious as “Burning Desires”, though a couple tracks come awful close.  I was a bit indifferent to the first single, “Rain of a Thousand Years” when it came out, though repeated listens have proven it to be a great track.  Similarly, I was worried when “Needles In My Mind” was the second single, because I immediately thought, “Uh oh, the requisite ballad.”  I was completely wrong, however, because it only starts out that way, and quickly becomes one of the most anthemic tracks on the album, what with its highly singable chorus and poignant lyrics.  I was glad to see that “Modern Babylon” was chosen as the third video/single, because it’s one of the best tracks on the album as well.  Ulterium Records should be positioning this band alongside Theocracy as one of its premier acts, because these guys deliver the goods once again with this release.  Fans of power metal will eat this up, and rightly so.  For anyone else, this is at least an album you should check out, because it’s very strong, and worth checking out if you’re curious about the band. Recommended.

 

85/100

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