Saturday, August 13, 2005

Review: Aspire - Quest Eternal (2005)

Aspire [ Website | MySpace ]
Quest Eternal

Power metal bands are often referred to as having either an "American" or "European" sound as a boilerplate for comparison, and such references are warranted because there is indeed a distinct sound to the music coming from either side of the Atlantic. Aspire, a band from Brooklyn, New York, defies such a standard by having adopted a distinctly European flair. Having said that, the band does not neglect their American metal roots and so Quest Eternal, their debut full-length, does indeed offer plenty of power.

At the time Quest Eternal was recorded, Aspire was comprised of only Al Candello (guitars, keyboards) and Ryan Metzger (vocals). Yes, the rhythm section was programmed. Be that as it may, the instrumentation is tight and the album is quite solid. With the European influences being predominant, the keyboards are integral to the structure of every song. They are not, however, overstated to the point of being frilly or distracting. The one exception occurs with "All Ahead", a song which tends to lean towards the "happy metal" of the Italian kind. Rest assured, though, for the remainder of the songs (including the ballads) stay far away from that territory. In addition to his fine keyboard contributions, Al plays quite a mean six-string. His riffs have plenty of crunch to satisfy fans of Helloween and Blind Guardian, while his solos are very crisp and fit seamlessly into place. "Lost Forevermore", for example, blends both of Al's strengths and as a result is one of the highlights of the album. An energetic keyboard overture gives way to heavy riffs that are subtly reminiscent of Judas Priest. A classic guitar solo, followed closely by a furious keyboard passage lends considerable balance to the composition.

Frontman Ryan Metzger sings with a smooth tenor, and delivers in a style resembling that of a troubadour. He has an expressive voice and projects the proper emotion with each verse. His weakness, however, lies with the higher notes. Sounding a bit strained when reaching above his normal range, Ryan is at his best when he remains in his comfort zone. A track of epic proportions, "The Liberator" perhaps holds Ryan's best performance as quick-paced passages and somber interludes showcase his vocal versatility. Al also comes through with some meaty riffs and wispy solos, not to mention setting the mood with keyboard parts that range from graceful to frenzied.

Power metal fans who prefer bands such as Dark Moor and Helloween over the pomp of Stratovarius or Rhapsody will find Quest Eternal to be an enjoyable listen. Aspire has grown with the addition of James Orlando on bass and drummer Eddie Red, promising an even fuller sound on their next album. A refreshing addition to the power metal genre.

Track Listing
1 Living In A Dream 5:18
2 Lost Forevermore 5:38
3 All Ahead 6:11
4 Riding With The King 5:14
5 As Many Years (Go Passing By) 5:40
6 From The Shadows 5:33
7 The Liberator 8:59
8 Final Serenade 6:05

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