Highlord - 'Hic Sunt Leones'

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Highlord - 'Hic Sunt Leones'

A pleasant album, and that is not meant in an insulting way.

The title of this, the eighth album from accomplished Turin-based Power Metallers Highlord, is something of a misnomer. Literally translating from Latin as "here are lions", 'Hic Svnt Leones' was later adapted by medieval cartographers into "here be dragons", to represent a designation for uncharted territories on a map. Unfortunately, it proves to be something of an albatross for the Italians, as they definitely do not explore any new topography on this unadventurous retracing of the genre's landscape.

The album starts well enough, with the orchestral thematic of 'Time For A Change', initially suggesting the band are exploring more or less the same path as countrymen Fleshgod Apocalypse, certainly in terms of bottom-ended heaviness. But any suggestion that this is going to be Power Metal on an epic and grandiose scale soon disappears as 'One World At A Time' immediately takes things down the more Classic Metal route, which characterizes the rest of the album. In fact, without the occasional death-growl vocal interjections, and the somewhat muted background keyboard effects, you would swear this was an album regenerated from the NWOBHM era, rather than rooted in the Euro Metal tradition.

The performances are solid enough though. The rhythm section of Massimilano Flak (who produced the album at his own studio) and Luca Pellegriono is tight and solid, while Marco Malacarne produces a neat line in licks, harmonies and melodies. The most disappointing aspect of the collective is that of vocalist Andrea Marchisio; he has a good vocal, but it's very atonal, and lacks both the gravitas and the range to do true justice to the potential of the material on show. 'Let There Be Fire', for example, is a good Hard Rock song which could have been much better with a vocalist capable of delivering an eviscerating scream on the cusp of the chorus.

'Hic Svnt Leones' is a pleasant album, and that is not meant in an insulting way. But, at the end of the evening, it offers nothing new to an already over-populated sub-genre and will probably be (by and large) ignored by many outside the band's inner circle of fans.

Mark Ashby

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