Review by Lynxie on July 10, 2023.
Say, my friends, how much do you miss the Golden Age of power metal? In particular, do you yearn for the times when bands like Power Quest and Dragonforce reigned supreme? If you do, like I am, then Skyblazer is the band for you. Forget about all those sterile modern bullshits, Infinity's Wings is pure glory, pure triumph, pure old-school worship. For me, whose taste is steeped deeply into those magnificent days, this is a most satisfying listen; indeed, I need to look no further this year for another album harkening back to the good ol' days.
So, be prepared for 50 minutes of glorious, upbeat EUPM that is guaranteed to blow your mind and put a smile on your face. It would be, even as the 'Prologue' claimed in such stirring manner, the ''time to leave the fears and the sorrows behind'' and ''catch the furious wind, spread your mighty wings''. Really, Skyblazer plays such happy, Power Quest-influenced, melodic power metal that I wouldn't be surprised if you tell me songs like 'One Million Ways' or the title track were indeed William's own compositions off Neverworld, or that riff on 'Eyes Of Serenity' was stolen from Dragonforce when they weren't such a bloated affair, not that I care. Just listen to all those crispy power metal riffing, pounding double-bass and flowing keys and you'll know I have nothing to complain about. Trust power metal to have huge singalong choruses too, and lyrics about some way to fly across the sky; cliches they may be, it's only befitting to such bright and upbeat major-key melodies. Alas, what wouldn't I give to ''soar across the heavens'' by the point that song has finished?
Honestly though, Skyblazer has managed to remind me how good keyboards can sound in power metal. Must have come off from the mastermind, Johannes Frykholm, being a keyboardist himself. His works in Palantír were already very impressive, but this is on a whole new level. And so we have everything from epic orchestras, AOR-tinged keyboard hooks to sweeping keyboard solos and balanced keyboard-guitar duels. Hell, I have long missed the smooth weaving of guitars and synth that Dragonforce had been so good at and songs like 'Under The Blazing Sky' really brought back good memories. At the same time keyboard is the best ever instrument to help build up a bit of tension and to induce atmosphere; surely the title track would've been less epic without that grandiose orchestral opening or the sweeping keys to complement the melody. And the transitions between different parts of the mini-epic 'Eternalize The Dream' would've been less smooth.
Speaking of 'Eternalize The Dream', that's a huge fucking masterpiece. At first I was tricked into thinking it might be a 'Land Of The Miracle'-ish ballad, but then the guitars and the drums kick in, and the song begins to spiral upwards whilst picking up speed until it breaks into a full-blown power metal gallop: I really love this progression. And I love it all the more for the corresponding lyrics. So even as the keys start to flow faster, Frykholm sings about ''out of the darkness, we ascend'', but before it has come to a moody, almost melancholic ''No coming chapters in this play, this is my final day''. The rising to heaven could not get any happier. And I'm pretty sure Skyblazer will put Freedom Call out of business when I heard the line ''Shining like burning stars across the blazing sky. Defy the darkness, turn back time and open up my eyes'' delivered with that rousing rhythm. Of course, the whole theme of the album is about conquering darkness and despair and chasing dreams, as the 'Prologue' proclaimed. But 'Eternalize The Dream' is the embodiment of such a process.
Frykholm's vocal works make for a unique listening experience as well. Certainly, he's more of a baritone and not what you would generally expect from this sort of happy metal. I was actually turned off for a bit at the start. But after a few songs I started to realize that he's the exact reason why this album has not rocketed off into toothaching sweetness. He's really steadfast about his vocal lines, and I sort of hear him as a more restrained version of Jonas Heidgert. At the same time he's invited some really apt vocals, like his friend Vide Bjerde from Vandor and the talented ex-Insania singer David Henriksson, to cover the high notes and add some dimensions.
Truly I adore this album, and you would too if you like Power Quest or Freedom Call around the start of the millennium. Frykholm is certainly a rising star in the genre -- it's a wise keyboardist who knows when and how to throw in his weights. I'll be eagerly awaiting more.
Highlights: 'Across The Heavens', 'Turning Time', 'One Million Ways', 'Infinity's Wings', 'Eternalize The Dream'
Rating: 10 out of 10624