Helion Prime - Helion Prime
Self Release
Power Metal
10 songs (48' 7")
Release year: 2016
Reviewed by Andy
Album of the month

Readers who are also science fiction fans, and who have a weakness for both power metal and female vocalists who aren't on album back covers only because of their looks, might find Helion Prime's debut self-titled LP as hard to resist as I do. Combining relentlessly positive, riff-dominated melodies with a strong dose of progressive intelligence to them, this one's quite possibly the best power metal album I've heard this year -- and certainly the most original.

There's an army of guest musicians on here, mostly to provide guitar solos and the keyboard on the album, as it appears that guitarist Jason Ashcraft sticks mostly to the rhythm side of things, though Dream Evil's Niklas Isfeldt helps out with vocals on Live and Die On This Day. That rhythm section is filled with solid power metal riffing that gives first priority to the melodies, which are first-rate, and the production, which is tight and clean, leaves Justin Herzer's drumming as a crisp undercurrent to the music. Jumping in between the vocals and the vibrato-filled soloing at times come proggy keyboard pieces, a nice background to the theme of the lyrics -- Ocean of Time's lead guitar/keyboard duel, in particular, is especially fun to listen to. As for the lyrics themselves, no cheesy epic is attempted here; the songs celebrate things like the equation used to guess the chances of finding intelligent life, sci-fi movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Apollo landing.

After reviewing two other much darker sci-fi-themed albums recently, this is the polar opposite, an ode to scientific discovery and exploration where the folks with the "right stuff" may succeed. Like the 50s pulp sci-fi the cover is themed after, there is an infectious optimism in the melodies of songs like Life Finds a Way even if the message of the lyrics are neutral -- and when the lyrics are more emotional, the whole song simply soars. Much of that optimism comes from the delivery of frontwoman Heather Michele, whose vocal harmonies go most of the way towards making the album the masterpiece it is. She is magnificent throughout, but the more energetic or melodic the song, the better she gets. Into the Black Hole is a prime example of this, singing a high-pitched duet with herself in the top registers of her voice, but she also nails the sadly reflective mood of A Place I Thought I Knew, putting some extra sugar into her already-expressive voice on the chorus. Where the band really pulls off a coup, though, is Apollo (The Eagle Has Landed); the heroic triumph of Michele's vocals perfectly matches a song about one of the greatest triumphs of our species' history, backed by one of the best and most uplifting melodies on the album.

Even restraining my enthusiasm enough to try and write an objective review, I have to say Helion Prime is pure gold from start to finish. If you listen to power metal, or female-fronted heavy metal like A Sound of Thunder, grab this one quick.

Bandcamp: https://helionprime.bandcamp.com/album/helion-prime.

Killing Songs :
Into the Black Hole, A Place I Thought I Knew, Ocean of Time, Apollo (The Eagle Has Landed)
Andy quoted 91 / 100
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