Human Fortress | Thieves Of The Night
Label: AFM Records
Release Year : 2016
Country : Germany
Genre : Epic Power Progressive Metal
Gus Monsanto – Vocals
Torsten Wolf – Guitar
Volker Trost – Guitar
Dirk Liehm – Keyboards
Andre Hort – Bass
Apostolos Zaios – Drums
For the last 50 years Germany has been a global stronghold for heavy metal, hard rock and progressive epic power metal. The obvious origins began in 1965 with the debut of the Scorpions. The Scorpions would certainly keep Germany as a hot bed for hard rock based heavy metal until the early part of the 1980’s. In the 1980’s and explosion of heavy metal and power metal was happening at a serious rate.
Then in the 1980’s something happened in Germany. They had taken a lot of the lyrical influence of bands like Rainbow and later Dio and added the aggressive power filter of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands like Diamond Head and more importantly Iron Maiden and created a sub genre that would endure the test of time. This would be called Power Metal. Bands like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Warlock, Blind Guardian would all pioneer this metal movement that would later catch a eternal stronghold in the European Metal Summer Festival circuits with Festivals like Pinkpop and the the festival of festivals Wacken Open Air in Germany.
The roads laid and ground work done due to these pioneers would make it totally possible for a band like Human Fortress to come along with such conviction and force. Human Fortress came up on my personal musical radar back in 2001 with their stellar debut Lord Of Earth And Heaven’s Heir. I can remember how much more different and distinct it was in sound compared to its peers at the time. Where their peers like Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray and others were incorporating more speed passages within the instrumental structure of their material, Human Fortress had a bit slower more progressive and epic metal approach to the power metal structure. It did not seem all rushed nor did it sound the same with every track. It sounded like every track was more organic with slower tempos and heavier rhythms at the time.
Human Fortress have seemed to stay on this path and with 2016’s Thieves Of The Night it is no different and actually a well written and produced album. There is another amazing fact about the band. Despite the ever changing line up of band members, Human Fortress has not only maintained the integrity within their sound but also have improved and built upon it. This makes the result of Thieves Of The Night one of their strongest albums to date and keeping their stellar sound intact. Now a little breakdown of Human Fortress Thieves Of The Night.
Amberstow has a beautiful acoustical opening before taking off at the :27 mark with a blistering rhythmic melody. This is soon accompanied with a solid lead vocal that has a a solid backing vocal harmony. The drum/bass rhythm section along with the rhythm guitar anchor the track while the stringed section clashes with a melodic and harmonic balance. The double guitar really does the track justice as Torsten Wolf and Volker Trost interchange the lead and rhythm melody out much like Dowing and Tipton of Judas Priest have over so many years.
Last Prayer to the Lord opens with a great rhythm based guitar section. It is a very straight away crunchy rhythmic section with nice clean vocal harmonies. The backing vocals perfectly compliment the lead. The back melodies almost serve as a second lead instrumental and vocal in how they run side by side with the main lead parts. at the 2:55 mark the twin guitar serves both as a double lead and rhythm along with a few breaks where the keyboards accentuate the composition.
Rise or Fall takes a more traditional power metal intro with galloping speed passages and progressions. It is soon met with another power metal hallmark where the vocals will make it easier for the listener to follow. The result maybe one of those tracks that a live audience will sing back to the band which is now a power metal staple. The twin lead guitar attack really gives the track a lot of power in both melody and harmony.
Thieves Of The Night opens with a nice little drum passage before the bass and guitars bring in the full rhythmic section. This track takes a more stringed section lead approach both instrumentally and lyrically. The lead and backing vocals are almost in perfect sync giving the listener a more choral experience overall vocally. The track is just as balanced with two great lead guitar solos. This track shows the band really coming into a cohesive unit.
Thrice Blessed has a lot of rhythm sections and signatures going on. It seems there are breaks where the band takes the track in many different progressive directions. Unlike some power metal outfits, Human Fortress also dig into progressive rock and metal’s past especially along the pathways of Crimson Glory, Fates Warning and Watchtower of the 1980’s and early Dream Theater in the 1990’s.
Hellrider is certainly one of the more progressive tracks on the album. Although it contains many straight away power metal staples there is a very heavy and strong progressive metal underbelly almost in the vein of their German countrymen Vanden Plas and Norway’s Jorn Lande. There is some very powerful straight away heavy rhythmic sections running along with strong lead guitar lead stringed sections.
Just a Graze is flat out a heavily Helloween influenced track with the galloping rhythmic sections, strong guitar leads and vocal harmony’s. Much like the Helloween track Its Helloween. Some of Just a Graze even takes on some influence off Keeper of The Seven Keys Parts 1 &2 .
Vicious Circle opens with a beautiful double lead guitar before a killer bass/drum rhythm section kicks in and takes off with the track. The vocal harmonies are really super tight. The vocal harmonies are at the level of a choir harmony at times. They are very clean. At the 2:11 mark the track does takes some unusual progressive time signatures almost in a SymphonyX manner.
Smite on the Anvil is a perfect segue instrumental for the next vocal oriented track Dungeons of Doom.
Dungeons Of Doom starts out with a great rhythmic section that has some nice underlying breaks while the lead guitar carries it towards the vocal opening at the 1:00 mark. Dungeons Of Doom lyrically is a track about one asking to be put out of his misery. The rhythm sections are very bottom heavy with great double bass drum blast beats at a more progressive level than a power metal level. The lead guitar and string section almost play in harmony at times with the bottom heavy rhythmic section.
Gift of Prophecy begins with a warm inviting acoustical section on one guitar and a semi acoustic lead on the other half of the guitar duo. At the 1:00 mark the track takes on both prog and power metal characteristics. At one end the galloping power metal signature with a underlying set of progressive time signature passages. The vocals are really in total sync and harmony. You also have various guitar lead solo changing all through the track.
Alone is the ballad of the album if there is a ballad. It opens with a lush warm piano passage and gives the listener of the album a much needed break from the heavier assault in the prior tracks. It is full of vocal melody and harmony almost borderline AOR but not quite. A warm drum and bass rhythm enter without overwhelming the listener. Alone is a perfectly arranged track to finish the album with.
Human Fortress have once again proven why they are one of Germany’s best power progressive metal bands with Thieves of the Night. Despite many lineup changes the band continues to mature with every release. They have proven as well why Germany is a major world hub for vocal oriented harmonic power progressive metal. Thieves of the Night did not disappoint here. I give it a 5/5 for sheer mature well written prog power oriented metal.