For a relatively small nation within the European Union, Cyprus has fielded a fairly impressive metal scene with a diverse range of expressions, with a sizable plurality opting for the more extreme end of the spectrum. However, there are a few noteworthy underground acts that have lent their talent to the power metal sub-genre, with acts hailing from the Nicosia such as Winter’s Verge and Astronomikon offering up a sound fairly similar to the one that have dominated much of Northern and Western Europe for the past couple decades. Recently a younger quintet from the same city going by the moniker Harmonize has opted to turn the clock back on said style and channel the grittier and older USPM sound, drawing a bit more from the olden heavy metal with a thrashing and epic demeanor as heard out of the likes of Manilla Road, Manowar, Omen and a few others.
Born in the 2012 and being the brainchild of guitarist Giorgos Constantinou, this project originally cut its teeth in the Cyprian metal scene as a thrash metal band, but the passage of time and frequent lineup changes saw them evolve into something a tad more melodic, nuanced, and old fashioned. There is naturally a strong remnant of their former sound, mostly manifesting in the crunchy riff work that often reminisces upon the mid-80s Bay Area sound and results in a dark character, but also being present to a degree in the vocal work of Sozos Michael, who occasionally changes up his triumphant, soaring howl for a rawer sound that seems to channel the viler Teutonic thrash sound. There is also a fairly prominent death metal growl provided on the chugging, mid-paced crusher “Tonight” provided by Blynd vocalist Andreas Paraschos that further darkens the character of this barbaric metal opus.
The resulting debut offering Warrior In The Night stands as an original conceptual work in the fantasy fiction genre, presenting a tale not all that dissimilar to the old Robert E. Howard stories, but with something of a more introspective tone. Co-creator of this story and London-based actress Nicolina Papas provides a compelling narration of the plotline on the album’s closing chapter “Beyond Darkness” that features a comparably brutish set of visuals as one would expect from a typical Manowar interlude, but also delves a bit further into the psyche of the protagonist and draws out a sense of moral conflict contained within what would otherwise be a typical, sword-swinging barbarian’s path. Set to a series of creepy ambient keyboard sounds and occasional bits of Mid-Eastern tinged guitar noodling, it all but steals the show from the rest of the album and accentuates the theatrical character of an album that is less brazen in its approach than most European power metal offerings of late.
All of these intricacies considered, musically speaking, this is about as straightforward of a guitar-driven metallic ride as one would expect. Following a brief military drum-led march and instrumental prelude “Warriors In Line”, which is itself a heavy endeavor, the familiar melodic scheme and swift riffing approach that one would expect from an early power metal offering circa 1985 becomes the rule. Things ensue with a driving anthem after the spirit of Iron Maiden with “Never Back Down”, which proves to be one of the few examples of a straightforward rocker on this album. The greater tendency is towards the slower and more epic feel of growers such as “Warrior In The Night”, while similarly styled semi-ballad with a lofty air to it “The Astonishing End” further dredges out the band’s Middle Eastern musical tendencies. But the song that really brings home the goods is the elongated, 9 minutes plus thrasher “Crawling Among Shadows”, bringing home the shred-happy power thrashing with a vengeance.
With a generally thin and older school production approach that is a bit closer to the rustic atmosphere of a large number of retro-heavy metal bands looking to recreate the early 80s sound down to the last kilohertz, this album makes no secret of its desire to turn back the musical clock a bit. It points to a time in metal’s early years when the sub-genre lines were not as clearly drawn and ends up with a varied collection of songs that manage to coexist within the same fantastical world where a war-torn land becomes the sight of a magical epiphany. It will appeal the most directly to anyone longing for the days when Manowar’s Into Glory Ride and Omen’s Battle Cry were hot items in the mid-80s American metal scene, while also carrying that same Hellenic character that a number of recent Greek power metal bands have also exhibited. Come for the impressive battle scenes, and then stay for the involved explanation as to how they came to pass.