Heliosaga - Towers in the Distance
Self-released
Power Metal
10 songs ()
Release year: 2014
Heliosaga
Reviewed by Kyle
Surprise of the month

It can be difficult to get excited about the idea of a new female-fronted power metal band these days; clones of Nightwish and Within Temptation seem to dominate this niche, while others (such as the excellent Ancient Bards) stand out as something unique yet ultimately remain underappreciated. Enter Heliosaga, a band which, after relocating from Texas to Minnesota, has finally managed to release their debut album after four years of existence. Heliosaga not only provides something unique within the female-fronted power metal scene, but within the scope of the entire genre, and – much to my surprise, especially for a debut – is perhaps the least American-sounding U.S. power metal album I’ve ever heard. Given my penchant for the European take on the genre, this is a very welcome twist.

Towers in the Distance finds Heliosaga making an enormous jump in quality over what they achieved with their self-released Equinox demo a few years back. The most obvious improvement, of course, is in the album’s production; songs sound well-rounded and well-mixed, thanks in no small part to legendary metal producer Jacob Hansen who had a hand in the mastering of Towers in the Distance. Shiny production is of course useless if the band in question is lacking in talent, yet this obviously is not the case with Heliosaga. The songs presented on this record are powerful, emotional, and diverse; the band’s overall sound can be described as a heavier version of Keldian combined with Nightwish, and the formula just clicks. The resulting atmosphere makes for an oddly relaxing listening experience, especially during slower tracks like Hideaway and Edenscar where Chelsea Knaack’s Tarja-esque vocal performance shines brightest.

There are certainly faster moments on display here, with Lost and Luminary echoing the best that Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica had to offer at their respective peaks. Other tracks such as A Tower So Tall and To Heal All Wounds display the band’s heavier side; the latter would not have been too out of place on Kamelot’s last album. All Souls nicely sums up all of these styles into a nine-plus minute track which carries some of the best melodies of the album and makes for a perfect closing number. There’s some seriously impressive guitar work going on throughout this record to boot – check out the way the riffs flow during the verse of Lost. Insanely catchy stuff.

The only major drawback of Towers in the Distance is that Knaack’s voice is not the best fit for each track. She has a beautiful voice, yet it lacks the intensity to back up the heavier numbers on the album. There are also a couple of tracks that don't reach the heights of the best tracks on the album; A Tower So Tall and Memorativa are good songs, but they simply don’t stack up to the best that Heliosaga has to offer. Even so, Towers in the Distance is a solid and consistently great record with no glaring flaws, and I applaud Heliosaga for only recycling one demo track for this album (Hunter’s Moon, which was my favorite track on the Equinox demo). In the end, I find myself hard-pressed to think of a power metal fan who would not enjoy Towers in the Distance to some extent; it has something to satisfy nearly all tastes, and while I’d like to see Heliosaga create an album with a more unified sound in the future, this album has done a fantastic job of establishing the band’s unique blend of the gothic and melodic varieties of power metal. This is one of the best power metal debuts of the year thus far and proves that Heliosaga is a band worth keeping an eye on.

Killing Songs :
Lost, Hideaway, Hunter's Moon, All Souls
Kyle quoted 81 / 100
Other albums by Heliosaga that we have reviewed:
Heliosaga - Equinox reviewed by Kyle and quoted no quote
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