I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Ancient Empire—Eternal Soldier (2018)
8 Tracks, Run Time: 47:42
Genre: Traditional/Power Metal
Release: Stormspell Records, Summer 2018
Power up the warp drive and prepare for a jump to hyperspace! The science-fiction-obsessed power metallers of Ancient Empire released their fourth album, Eternal Soldier, via the true-metal specialists at Stormspell Records. It was a pleasant surprise to hear more new material from Ancient Empire in 2018, because it had been less than a year since I reviewed their third album, The Tower (released in 2017). These guys are quite prolific!
Anchored as always by the two-man instrumental assault force of Joe Liszt (vocals, guitars, bass) and Steve Pelletier (drums), with lyrics by Rich Pelletier, it appears that Eternal Soldier is another cool, full-on concept album.
Inside the front cover of the CD booklet is a paragraph which serves as a quick introduction to the title character (I assume he's the armored, Snake Plissken–lookin' fella on the album cover)—an unnamed warrior of the future who, due to a mysterious temporal fluke during an enemy attack, has fallen through a wormhole in time. Since that event, the flow of time has taken him wherever there is conflict, so he has taken part in countless wars throughout the ages.
On the eight songs that make up Eternal Soldier, this narrator brings the listener along on his journey through centuries of warfare and gives us an idea of what effects a lifetime of battle has had on him. This is pretty heady stuff, worthy of a big-budget movie, or perhaps a massive multi-platform video game. The album cover even looks like something that might have adorned an old-school NES or Sega Genesis cartridge back in the day!
Eternal Soldier kicks off with the galloping title track, which sets an appropriately epic tone in fine Iced Earth style. Once again, Joe Liszt's hoarse-but-confident vocal style recalls Piet Sielck from Germany's Iron Savior (another band who have successfully synthesized science fiction and heavy metal), and Joe Comeau (Annihilator/Liege Lord).
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"For The One I Lost" opens with some soothing acoustic strumming before settling into a nice chugging power-metal groove. The speedy "Shadow From The Past" features some twin-guitar interplay that reminded me of the Rainbow classic "Kill The King," and then things heavy up big time at the album's center point with "Time Itself," where the riffs occasionally approach thrash velocity.
"Upon This Withered Earth" is the longest track on the album at nearly seven minutes, beginning once again with some impressive acoustic noodling and developing into a full-on atmospheric epic with excellent guitar work throughout. "I Alone" picks up the pace and turns into a crunchy, all-men-play-on-ten anthem of strength and defiance that's bound to get heads banging and devil horns raised high.
"The Fifth Column" provides a hyperactive close to the album with its satisfying speed metal feel, and it ends on an apparent lyrical cliffhanger, as the Eternal Soldier seems to find himself back "home" where he started . . . (William Shatner voice) but . . . for . . . how . . . long?
Cool Concept, Quality Production
Overall, Eternal Soldier is another solid outing for Ancient Empire. Their concepts are cool, the musicianship is high quality, and the album is well-produced as usual and sounds great at high volume. Once again, nice work, fellas!
More From Ancient Empire
The Summer of 2018 was a busy season for the Ancient Empire camp. In addition to the release of Eternal Soldier in late July, the band appeared at the 2018 edition of Headbangers Open Air festival in Brande-Hörnerkirchen, Germany, where they shared the stage with such old-school traditional metal legends as Manilla Road, Anvil, Tankard, Girlschool, and many more.
To fill out the lineup for this live performance, Liszt and Pelletier were joined by guitarist Robert Edwards, bassist Dan Lynch, and drummer Gary Neff, all of whom have played with Steve & Joe in other projects like Hellhound and Shadowkiller.
Ancient Empire has quickly become a band to watch on the underground scene. I'm probably repeating myself by now since this is the third A.E. release that I've reviewed for this site, but if you enjoy classy, well-played American power metal ala Iced Earth, Armored Saint, Jag Panzer, and Liege Lord, this band should be right up your alley, and you should add this album to your shopping list immediately. Beam me up!
© 2018 Keith Abt