Let down by inconsistencies
Norwegian power metal band, Highland Glory was formed rising from the ashes of previous metal outfit Phoenix Rizing in 2001. The debut CD ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’, released in 2003, was considered to be one of the better power metal debuts around at the time; giving a boost to the band’s success and popularity. 2005’s ‘Forever Endeavour’ pushed further the band’s natural progression and evolution with yet another solid effort with improved song-writing.
Then in 2007, vocalist and face of the band, Jan Thore Grefstad decided to part ways with the band, which seemed to slow down Highland Glory’s progression and movement in the metal world. Grefstad went on to form Saint Deamon and has since released 2 exceptional power metal albums. Hovering in limbo for quite a while, Highland Glory eventually found a worthy replacement to Grefstad in late 2008; that being female vocalist Trine Elise Johansen.
The change of switching from a male vocalist to a female vocalist would greatly affect the band’s sound, and as such Highland Glory have taken just that little bit longer in preparation for their third and latest release entitled ‘Twist of Faith’. While the band’s trademark sound would still remain intact, there would also be some subtle differences that would affect the sound overall, namely, the heaviness has toned down just a smidgen, and the sound has become more melodic than what we’ve heard on previous releases.
In describing the style of Trine Elise Johansen, she would not fit in line with those who sing in that angelic style that features prominently in gothic metal (e.g. Sharon den Adel, Simone Simons, Anette Olzon and Liv Kristine). Johansen sings at a slightly lower pitch than those vocalists mentioned, however with a bit more grunt in her delivery; and does boast a passionate and powerful voice very much suited for melodic power metal. The exception to that statement would be on the beautiful slow ballad “Without You” (written by guitarist Jack Olsen in dedication to his children), in which we hear all the wonderful qualities of Trine’s voice while she sings so sweetly and angelically while taking center stage during the song.
‘Twist of Faith’ shows a somewhat new identity for the band, a re-invention of sorts, but with the continuation of quality song-writing and musicianship that was found with the band’s first two CDs. While the heavier style could possibly sit better with fans of the band and the power metal genre, there is still a lot to like about the new CD; which would include those who enjoy female fronted non-gothic metal bands. Triosphere comes to mind when listening to ‘Twist of Faith’, as does Holyhell and a few others, which can be a refreshing change to the traditionally male dominated vocal position within this genre.
Despite being a tad inconsistent at times, and a few too many slower-paced tracks for my liking, overall ‘Twist of Faith’ is a fairly solid release by Highland Glory. The best track on the album would be the powerful second track named “Limitation of Life”, which combines catchy and heavy power riffs with softer melodic, keyboard-rich sections. Trine does well here, holding her own against the powerful blasts of guitars and drums behind her. Following closely behind is the nine minute epic final track, entitled “Blood of the Innocent”, which sounds very similar to recent Iron Maiden, both in sound and in vocal delivery. With powerful lyrics based on a brutal crime in England back in 1993, the track is very well done with strong guitar riffs, including a slight dark tinge to boot; and overall a excellent way to complete the disc.
Also worth mentioning from the CD are the songs “Earthbound Spirit” (a mid-paced, almost progressive sounding lumbering track with nice groove riffs throughout), “Holocauster Ride” (one of the quickest songs on the album, with a catchy chorus wrapped in melodic metal guitar riffs and wails), and also “Far Cry From Freedom”, which aside from being the most upbeat and energetic song on the release (and a kick-ass guitar solo), also contains a folkish highlander theme running through it. ‘Twist of Faith’ also contains a bonus track, that is a cover of Heart’s “Alone”, which makes sense I suppose now that Trine is behind the mic they can cover a song from a band such as Heart. Not as good as the original, but good nevertheless.
Parts of this album were written back when Jan Thore Grefstad was in the band, while the remainder was written once Trine had arrived, so it’s understandable that not all parts of the release flow smoothly. The inconsistency from the band having to edit parts of the songs to suit Trine over Jan is the only downside to the release; however this should change considerably when they decide to write the next CD knowing that those obstructions will not be there. With that said, fans of Highland Glory should have no problem warming to Trine or the new release, while fans of female fronted melodic power metal bands should also give this album a decent try.
(Face Front Records)