Gaia Epicus - Victory
Epicus Records
Power/Speed Metal
11 songs (46'46)
Release year: 2007
Gaia Epicus, Epicus Records
Reviewed by Crims

Here we have the latest Gaia Epicus CD, entitled Victory. This is the Norwegian’s band 3rd full-length but they’ve been around since the early 90’s playing everything from Punk Rock to Thrash Metal and going through many name changes in the process. Either way we have a CD that continues the tradition of their previous releases by playing a style of Power Metal that owes heavily to Helloween and to a further extent Gamma Ray (but also Megadeth!?).

If you liked how the riffs sounded on mid-period Gamma Ray releases (Land Of The Free to Power Plant) then you've come to the right place. Showing many nods to Speed Metal, the riffs have the melody of Euro Power Metal and some of the neck-moving catchiness of Thrash. Complimenting the riffs are many theme leads in between the solos which are usually played mid-paced over fast music that use the same melodic structure and phrasing of the choruses (it’s a technique that almost every style of Rock music uses and it works well here). Mid-paced songs and sections can also be found which, much like Gamma Ray, owe a lot to Accept as they combine Traditional Metal with a Hard-Rock sensibility (yeah, we’ve heard it before). The problem here isn’t the execution, as quite frankly, the riffs are generally very good, as are the leads. I found myself head-banging to many of the riffs and the leads seemed to be very well thought-out and played very cleanly despite the fact some of them get rather fast. On three distinct occasions the Thrash roots of the band take center stage as Revenge Is Sweet sounds, well, like a long-lost song from Megadeth’s Rust In Peace release. Hell, singer Thomas Christian Hansen even does a remarkable imitation of Dave Mustaine. You know, even though this was mostly devoid of anything original with Mustaine’s vocal style added to Megadeth’s music played , the song played out more like a homage than say, a blatant rip-off. At least that’s how I look at it (if Gamma Ray can routinely do the same thing with Judas Priest, then why can’t Gaia Epicus do it with Megadeth). The second instance of Thrash Metal is near the end of Awaken The Monster. It actually starts out rather bland and uninteresting, but around 2:25 mark the song speeds up with a riff that sounds suspiciously like the one in Slayer’s Seasons In The Abyss when that song gets faster. The third instance gives us by far the best song on the CD and shows the raw potential this band has. Iron Curtain is a multi-faceted song that includes an intro similar to Metallica's Seek And Destory, then also includes a galloping rhythm that goes into a Gamma Ray inspired chorus. Proceeding that is completely punishing end-section which, once again, brings to memory some of the most aggressive riffs/leads of Megadeth, complete with the Mustaine vocal style (think an even more aggressive bastard child of Take No Prisoners and Hanger 18, as about the same amount of leads as Hanger 18 are found along with a song title refrain similar to Take No Prisoners.). I would say that if the band included more Thrash based riffs into their Gamma Ray inspired Metal (as they did on Iron Curtain) then we might have something that was a lot more interesting and original. The key here is that if you're going to be a band whose intention it is to pay homage to many of the greats without adding a lot of new, if any elements to the music, it should be by incorporating the riff/vocal/lead/chorus style of three or four bands, instead of one. They did this on Iron Curtain and for that reason the song is completely killer and one of my favorite of the year thus far.

Vocally Hansen can sing in various styles, but the most commonly heard one is rather raspy. I must say that he sounds nothing like Kai Hansen, nor does he attempt to sound like him, but the way the vocals are placed and melodies used in the choruses (along with subtle back-up vocals) many comparisons can be made to Gamma Ray. Most of the choruses worked quite well here in particular on Revenge Is Sweet, Rise Of The Empire, Iron Curtain and the title track, which is the token Metal praising song of the CD. Sure, it has cheesy lyrics (“Metal never dies, it will lead us to Victory!”) but the song works on many levels, mostly because none of the other songs had this type of lyrical topic. I will say that parts of the song pay homage/rip-off/expand on (depending on your point of view) Helloween’s Metal Is The Law. This includes a similar use of cheering fans in the background along with a similar main riff (that sounds like a bastard child of Ride The Sky and Metal Is The Law actually). The lead found on the title track also sounds a lot like something Helloween would have done in the Walls Of Jericho/Keepers era as well, but that goes for a lot of songs.

So who is going to like this? There are many Metal fans out there that despise any band that takes their main influence from a single band, thus emulating them to a high degree. If you’re one of those people you will likely despise this CD as well. What about everyone else? Well, as I mentioned the guitar playing here is especially good. I will say that when the band plays fast, they are a lot more interesting than when they played mid-paced or slow. The two main songs that fall into this category are Through The Fire, and Awaken The Monster and I just found these songs to be, overall, uninspired even though the lead section and fast break near the end of both songs are quite good. Also, Fortress Of Solitude is more filler material than anything as the chorus is rather weak compared to the rest of the CD, as the vocals don’t add anything and there is an annoying modern chugging riff underneath which does not help matters. Surprisingly the band is at their best when they sound like Gamma Ray or Megadeth strangely enough… at least that is when I liked them the most (though it should be noted the Gamma Ray sound makes up about 80 percent of the CD and the Megadeth sound is restricted to two songs). One could argue that if they wanted to hear Gamma Ray, they would just listen to Gamma Ray. That would be a valid argument but the occasionally used Megadeth influences and a different sounding vocalist may be enough to warrant a look at this band. For most I would imagine that wouldn’t be enough though. The band definitely has potential here as the guitar playing is just that good. If they could expand on the Speed/Power Metal riffs (as opposed to just playing them) and mix in the "Megadeth" and maybe one more distinct band on a much more regular basis, then we may hear a band that can turn more heads; afterall, to me, a song that sounds like a mix between Power Plant and Rust In Peace is an appealing notion. Unfortunately we only heard it in one song here. I can still recommend this release to fans of German Speed/Power Metal who can’t get enough of the style as all but three songs are competently played with very good chorus and neck-breaking riffs. For everyone else, Power Plant, Somewhere Out In Space, and Land Of The Free are excellent CD’s, but most of you probably already knew that.

Killing Songs :
New Life, The Sign, Iron Curtain, Revenge Is Sweet, Victory
Crims quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by Gaia Epicus that we have reviewed:
Gaia Epicus - Damnation reviewed by Goat and quoted 65 / 100
Gaia Epicus - Satrap reviewed by Chris and quoted 75 / 100
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