When I first discovered HUMAN FORTRESS on their last record, 2013’s Raided Land, I was still kind of new to Power Metal. But one thing was clear. These guys stood out from many of their peers because they know how to embrace melody while they rock, they know how to be heavier when necessary, and fer Chrissakes they don’t let the keyboards drown everything else out!! Oh, they also don’t constantly sing about dragons, dragons, and more dragons (oy…), which I am thankful for. New album Thieves of the Night arrives April 1 on AFM Records and believe me when I tell you this is every bit as good as the last one and then some. After a triumphant comeback like the one these guys had, maintaining that momentum is never an easy task. And sometimes bands to overthink their next CD.
But in this case the band sounds even more comfortable together than on their last outing. It really feels like singer Gus Monsanto has been there for a long, long time, such is his command and delivery, especially on the title track “Thieves of the Night” and album opener “Amberstow”. These two are also the ones where guitarists Volker Trost and Todd Wolf show off their heaviest chops and tastiest solos. On that front, the two men complement each other brilliantly on “Last Prayer to the Lord” while bassist Andre Hort and drummer Apostolos Zaios bring their own bombast to the mix. Bass lines loud enough to rattle my brains always make me happy. And thanks to the fabulous mixing by Seeb Levermann (ORDEN OGAN) everything is out there in the open with nothing muddied at all.
Dirk Liehm uses his keyboards to provide the perfect misty atmosphere on “Rise or Fall” and a cinematic flair on “Thrice Blessed”. I often wonder what he could accomplish given the opportunity to score a motion picture. Actually, on interlude “Smite on the Anvil” there is a distinct flair that evokes Brad Fiedel’s 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day theme and the one Barry De Vorzon co-created for V: The Final Battle over thirty years ago. Count me in! “Hellrider” harkens back to the glory days of metal, when at any given hour of the day you’d hear this stuff on the radio and see it all over MTV. “Just a Graze” is a galloping tale of battle while fellow fast number “Vicious Circle” sports a memorable chorus I was singing for hours.
The axe blades are deadly and sharp for the verses on “Dungeon of Doom” while the hook is clean and polished without being sterile. Monsanto also makes use of his lower register throughout, adding to its power. A medieval-flavored intro marks the start of “Gift of Prophecy” before it turns into an all-out rockfest clocking in at nearly seven minutes. Tempo changes, dual harmonized leads, thumping bass and drums, and a soaring hook make for a tune that would be the perfect way to end a live set. The album ends with “Alone”, a song as wistful and longing as its title.
After several spins it’s clear that this lineup of HUMAN FORTRESS is only getting better and better the longer they play together. The songs jump right out at you and the band’s musical prowess along with their energy is highly palpable throughout Thieves of the Night. If someone doesn’t grab these boys and put them on tour soon, that will just be criminal. Definitely do yourself a favor and pick this one up!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Rise or Fall”, “Thieves of the Night”, “Amberstow”, “Gift of Prophecy”, “Vicious Circle”, “Smite on the Anvil”