Master of the Sea

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When you start off listening to Master of the Sea, the first thing you notice is the excellent musicianship and elaborate production. This is straight-up power metal with some progressive overtones.

The guitar work is immense, particularly on tracks like the title cut. Flashy guitar solos from guitarists Roko Smailagic and Damjan Caharija are all over this disc.

At times, vocalist Rudy Berginc reminds me of Veni Domine singer Fredrik Ohlsson, although the latter’s high notes are stronger than Berginc’s offerings.  While the vocals here are appropriate to the style, there are times when he stretches his range a bit too far, resulting in the higher notes sounding a bit tired. There is also a mild resemblance to Leviticus crooner, Peo Pettersson (Knights of Heaven era), but with the gravelly undertones diminished a bit.

There are also some pleasant surprises instrumentally in the form of proggy keyboards, a la Yes, especially on “Taste of Freedom.” I’m not usually one for excessive keys in my metal, but in this case, it’s incredibly effective. The presence of a real, talented orchestra – no, those aren’t synthesizers! – from the Denis Modrusan-directed Croatian group IstiraPhonic, is impressive. (Modrusan also worked with the band on production of the album and is included as an honorary member of the band.) This integration is admirable in an era where more musical elements are fabricated than legitimate.

Overall, this is an impressive dose of power metal, hearkening to a loose definition of what used to be called “white metal,” e.g. heavy metal that was positive and affirming, but not necessarily evangelical.