So I’m on my fourth or fifth listen to Raided Land, the new album from HUMAN FORTRESS, out now via AFM Records and I am one happy camper right now. And before all you purists come flying out of the woodwork to tell me that their older stuff is better and yada, yada, yada, let me tell you this: I don’t care. I have never listened to them before and something about this band strikes a chord in me. THIS is a Power Metal band I can get into. There aren’t layers and layers of synth, no choirs, and all the songs don’t sound the same, which drives me nuts when it comes to some of these outfits. I won’t name names because I’m not going to fault a band for following their creative vision; suffice to say that HUMAN FORTRESS are a band that I am certainly enjoying right now.
As soon as opener and title track “Raided Land” kicked in I knew I was going to like these guys. Right from the outset I was all about the potent combination of new addition Gus Monsanto’s vocals and the twin riff attack of Todd Wolf and Volker Trost. New keyboardist Dirk Liehm knows exactly how to get the most out of his instrument, opting to enhance the feel of these songs, and not play over everything around him. It’s called Power METAL for a reason; we have to hear the guitars, DUH! And yet when he’s in the driver’s seat it yields one of the album’s best tracks in “Wasted Years”, complementing Monsanto’s voice perfectly. Another new guy, bassist Andre Hort and drummer Apostolos Zaios are in full lockstep on this and every other song as well. This is one tight band, let me tell you.
“Child of War” has the feel of back-in-the-day 80’s metal, but it sounds more like vintage Icon than some made for MTV garbage and was another instant favorite from the word GO. The riffs and thunderous drums of “Gladiator of Rome (Part 2)” should quickly show the world that this new line-up is a force to be reckoned with, while “Shelter” moves forward like an advancing army on a medieval battlefield, ready to spill blood. Speaking of, the fact that this is a large portion of the subject matter isn’t lost on me, either. The band manages to spin this type of yarn effortlessly without being cheesy, which is a welcome change from what I’ve had to endure as of late.
The Euro-Metal sound is alive and well on “The Chosen One”, but again, in a good way, not bad. Why can’t more of these bands find the right balance? I wish I knew. Now with all this praise, there were a couple of things I wasn’t thrilled with. For example “Dark Knight” is one of those songs that suffer from a not-great title and the music isn’t much better. “Evil Curse” is another one that I just couldn’t get into, either. The guitars are heavy enough, but it didn’t click for some reason. But really these are minor glitches because “Pray For Salvation” is a sneak-up-on-you track that really ramps up the heavy halfway through another tale of the battlefield.
Another strong track is “Restless Souls”. With a very grandiose intro courtesy of Liehm and then the band coming in with both barrels loaded it could have easily been the album opener in my opinion. And then you have “Under Siege”, yet another kickass number with Monsanto shifting from his lower to higher range like it’s nothing. One more dose of that medieval influence is back for last song “Guard the Blind” which is really the perfect way to close the book on a great album of Power Metal. Considering this isn’t normally my thing, the boys in HUMAN FORTRESS have impressed the hell out of me, and I highly recommend Raided Land.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Wasted Years”, “Child of War”, “Raided Land”, “Under Siege”, “Guard the Blind”, “Restless Souls”