Music review

Energy Crisis: Artizan’s New Album Doesn’t Take The Plunge

Florida’s Artizan have been going on their power/melodic metal journey for five years now, and they’ve had a good amount of time to steadily define their sound of expansive and epic tracks. Artizan’s latest metal record, Ancestral Energy, aims to continue their bout at huge, huge vocals and rhythmic riffs. But as the band steps into the murky world of prog, you can tell there a sense of uncertainty and hesitance to take that plunge. Ancestral Energy is a nervous album, where that ambitious drive to explore new ideas is padded with back-and-forth pacing, which ultimately makes the album repetitive and far too uninteresting to recommend.

Artizan singer Tom Braden’s reverence for bands like Iron Maiden is crystal clear in his voice. That power metal resonance is ascendant and packs a solid amount of endurance (the guy can nail those lengthy vocal passages with stamina to burn). However, something that has made other bands in the metal field so interesting is that shocking sense of unchained and fearless virtuosity. Braden is a fine vocalist, but Ancestral Energy doesn’t offer much credit to go on for it. He sits among a steady, but overly weathered vocal range. You won’t find any sort of screeching banshee calls in the vein of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson or Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, nor will you find any low metal bellows like former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones. It never reaches the realm of grating, but it’s a wasted opportunity. Range is something that can prove a power metal vocalist’s chops; Artizan’s lack of any sort of left-turn surprises makes each song sound repetitive and uninteresting.

This concept continues further into the musicianship; it sounds pedestrian. Artizan don’t seem to be pushing any envelopes with Ancestral Energy. The songs themselves don’t lack a very steady structure, but the repetitive riffs, shockingly underwhelming solos and derivative rhythmic patterns tear down the album’s quality. The fact that a majority of the songs on Ancestral Energy clock in at over five minutes makes the album sound much longer than it should be. While metal tracks since the very beginning have been known for being longer than typical radio singles, when the songs themselves focus on such simplistic and repetitive setups, you can’t help but feel bored, and that’s the biggest issue with Artizan’s latest record: it’s very one-note. The tracks are drawn out and don’t take advantage of their lengthiness. If you’re going to make such long songs, you need to make them interesting all the way through. Ancestral Energy doesn’t do that and it hurts it severely.

Ancestral Energy allegedly tries to channel the spirit of progressive and power metal simultaneously, but the progressive side is incredibly under-utilized. Bands that earn the moniker of progressive metal are famous for twisted time setups, intricate note patterns and an unbridled sense of skill with their respective instruments. Artizan don’t make any sort of…well…progression with Ancestral Energy. Simply changing a time signature here or there does not a progressive song make. The title track does a better job at proving their progressive chops, with sectioned verses and, most importantly, a sense of consistent interest. The left turns throughout the album seem shoved into “Ancestral Energy,” which makes for an epic closer, but a very unbalanced overall product. (Props, however, to ex-Iced Earth singer Matt Barlow, who makes the title track’s vocal performance even better).

In juxtaposition, “You Can’t Take the Metal” is an exception to this prog-metal formula. The song’s faster pace stands out among the exhausting marathon tracks off the rest of the album, giving the song a prime state as a radio friendly track. The solos are more melodic and the rhythms are much more interesting. However, this still doesn’t excuse the rest of the album from being so bland and uninteresting.

Ancestral Energy is one of those albums that sticks to the bare bones elements of the genres it attempts to utilize. Sadly, the lack of any significant effort in the music or songwriting is something that can’t go unnoticed. It’s sad, because the ten-minute closer “Ancestral Energy” seems to be where the most effort was sent. Though it’s a great progressive metal track that also captures that power metal scope, the rest of the album is so drawn out and uninteresting that as a whole, the album can’t come with a truly confident recommendation. Artizan’s latest album comes with its own sense of confusion. In an effort to make masterful tracks like “Ancestral Energy” and even “You Can’t Take the Metal”, Artizan has padded the album with hesitant and repetitive compositions that drag down the album’s quality considerably.