ARION – Vultures Die Alone [Japanese Edition +3] (2021)
After several decades of being put at the forefront of the European power metal movement, there have been zero signs of Finland’s signature take on it slowing down despite a number of sizable ebbs in the style’s commercial viability since the 1990s.
One of the more intriguing acts in recent years with a symphonic twist is that of ARION, an outfit that has been balancing the triumphant character of the sub-genre with a catchy, almost poppy sound production with impressive results since the early 2010s.
First worldwide recognition came in 2018, after the release of “Life Is Not Beautiful”, via AFM Records. New opus “Vultures Die Alone” is to be released in a few days, finding the band in a more mature phase. This advanced Japan Release includes 3 bonus tracks.
Arion addresses to fans of symphonic, melodic, and commercial power metal. With an obvious emphasis on melody, their songs are catchy, winning over the listener. Lassi Vaaranen’s beautiful voice is in total symmetry with the band’s melodic lines.
“Vultures Die Alone” presents yet another expansion and improvement upon a winning formula.
Generally a picture of pristine symphonic sounds and a dramatic operatic vocalist at the helm with a metallic drop is the one that this style gets tagged with, but Arion has been among a crop of younger bands that have been bucking this trend of late.
The musical presentation is of a much more guitar-oriented character, channeling a sound more in keeping with the older metal-infused riffing approach associated to outfits such as Burning Point and early Firewind, and the lead guitar work of Iivo Kaipainen is of a much more virtuosic and shred-happy character that dovetails more so with Gus G than the window-dressing, token metal element that Emppu Vuorinen has brought to Nightwish of late.
But even more so than the masterful guitar work and the equally consequential keyboard display out of Arttu Vauhkonen is the impact made by front man Lassi Vaaranen, whose grittier vocal approach brings more of a Marco Hietala flavor into the mix and definitely gives things more of an edge.
Yet in spite of this highly elaborate combination of sonic elements being in play, the approach that Arion tends to take in constructing their albums consists of a fairly compact and formulaic approach to songwriting, and this latest studio offering is the most streamlined of the bunch.
Mid-paced bangers with more of a radio-friendly demeanor such as “I’m Here To Save You” and “I Don’t Fear You” have a straightforward presentation, but get the job done with a brilliant combination of highly infectious melodic hooks and a meaty, almost power thrashing guitar assault.
Similarly catchy and compact offerings such as the opening cruiser “Out Of My Life” and the title anthem “A Vulture Dies Alone” go even harder. The heavily bombastic “Bloodline” pummels with the ferocity of a high octane V8 and features a brilliant guest vocal slot by Battle Beast front woman Noora Louhimo.
The exceptions to the rule of up tempo, punchy anthems in sub-4 minute packages prove to be no slouches in the heaviness department, though they do present a more nuanced counterpoint to the overtly heavy character of the aforementioned songs.
The more down-tempo and ballad-like “In The Name Of Love” wants for nothing in the intensity department, though it’s accomplished more so in the heartfelt vocal performance put on by Lassi and members of the rock band Cyan Kicks that are brought on as guests, alongside a truly riveting guitar solo.
“I Love To Be Your Enemy” proves more of a deceptive entry that begins on an almost ambient note and then launches into a blistering foray of groove mayhem that merges the band’s signature symphonic flavor with a modern riff.
But the absolute zenith of the more nuanced fair on here is the epic instrumental romp “Where The Ocean Greets The Sky”, which features a brilliant guitar display out of Kaipainen that could pass for Malmsteen and a series of serene passages out of the end credits of some grand Hollywood production.
While this is a band that is still relatively new to the scene, at least compared to all of the mainstays of the millennial power metal revolution that paved the way for the current context, it’s pretty safe to say that this stands as their magnum opus thus far.
It’s a more straightforward of an album relative to its predecessors a a 4-minute song format, but the combination of captivating symphonic material on here and the high impact character of its metallic battery make it an exemplary album in the style / genre, if not album of the year material.
01. Out Of My Life
02. Break My Chains
03. Bloodline (Feat. Noora Louhimo)
04. I’m Here To Save You
05. In The Name Of Love (Feat. Cyan Kicks)
06. A Vulture Dies Alone
07. I Love To Be Your Enemy
08. Where The Ocean Greets The Sky
09. I Don’t Fear You
10. Until Eternity Ends
11. At The Break Of Dawn (Live) [Japan Bonus Track]
12. Punish You (Live) [Japan Bonus Track]
13. You’re My Melody (Live) [Japan Bonus Track]
Lassi Vaaranen – Vocals
Gege Velinov – Bass
Topias Kupiainen – Drums
Iivo Kaipainen – Guitars
Arttu Vauhkonen – Keyboards