In Your Honour - 2010 Reviews





METAL OBSESSION
Posted on 23 May, 2010

2010 sees the return of Australia’s melodic metal masters Black Majesty and their latest album “In Your Honour”. It has been 3 long years since the band released the well-received “Tomorrowland”. Black Majesty has taken longer in the song-writing and recording / production of this album than they have allowed themselves on past releases, and the results speak for themselves.

“Far Beyond” kicks off the album in traditional Black Majesty style. Kicking off with a very melodic yet subdued dual guitar lead, it isn’t long before this up-tempo rocker ventures into typical Black Majesty territory with frenetic riffs and lead breaks abounding. This is a great opener to the album with a huge chorus that is instantly memorable and destined to be a live favorite. This track really does have a bit of everything that Black Majesty is known for and much more. From the outset the vocal performance John “Gio” Cavaliere steals the show.

Black Majesty is a band that has always worn its influences proudly on its sleeve. Never is this more evident than on “God of War” which harkens back to some of Iron Maidens greatest work. Built around a riff that could have come straight from Maiden’s “Powerslave” era, “God of War” is one of the albums early highlights. This sees the band at their melodic best, once again powered by Cavaliere’s impassioned vocals and the dual guitars of Hanny Mohamed and Steve Janevski. If ever Australia had an equivalent to Maiden’s Murray/Smith combination, surely Janevski/Mohamed is it. The time signature change for the chorus is a stroke of brilliance and adds to the overall impact of the track. This really is Black Majesty at their best.

“Millennium” recalls the feel of Black Majesty’s brilliant debut disc “Sands of Time”. This is standard fare for Black Majesty. Whereas most other songs on the album have some experimentation or something unexpected, “Millennium” is as by-the-numbers as Black Majesty get on this album. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because what they do, they do very well. It’s the performance of drummer Pavel Konvalinka stands out on this track. Konvalinka has really stepped up to the plate (again) and is in impressive form on the entire disc, particularly on this track.

The album’s standout track is up next. “Break These Chains” sees the band explore new territory and really slow down the pace to produce one of the best melodic ballads you could ever hope to hear. The band is again showing their influences here, as you could be forgiven this is The Scorpions in their hey-day. Cavaliere produces possibly his best ever vocal performance on this song. The emotion and passion he brings really lifts this song above anything we have heard from Black Majesty to date. This song also contains some of the finest guitar work from Mohamed and Janevski and demonstrates that each guitarist has his very own unique sound and feel that when put together produce a style and sound completely unique to Black Majesty. Herein lays one of the bands many strengths. Yes, they sound like the sum total of all their influences, yet they still manage to retain their own sound.

“Further Than Insane” lifts the tempo back to familiar levels again and is an up-tempo rocker of the highest order. This time its bassist Evan Harris who stands out as his performance really holds this song together especially during the verses. Harris’ contribution is not limited solely to his bass heroics as this song has a huge chorus, a big part of which are Harris’ backing vocals.

“In Your Honour” as a whole sees the band venture into areas we haven’t really seen the band tread before. This is very evident on “End Of Time”. The opening riff is 80’s hard-rock all the way. What makes this track a little different to the rest of the album are Cavaliere’s subdued vocals during the verses which see a dominant use of keyboards though not in an overbearing obstructive way. The verses here are don’t contain the heavy riffing we have seen so far and are left to breathe until the bridge and chorus’ hit the listener like a train. The chorus is again pure melodic Black Majesty.

“Wish You Well” has a very Helloween feel to it yet still manages to retain all the Black Majesty elements we are used to. This contains some of the more empowering lyrics we have heard to date and once again sees Cavaliere at the top of his game. Riffs and fills come from every direction on this track. Even though there is so much happening (especially during the solo section) each instrument is crystal clear and not lost in the mix. This speaks volumes for the production and mastering of “In Your Honour” which we’ll touch on later.

Another highlight of the album is “Follow” which starts off with a very Dokken-ish riff and guitar trade-off between Mohamed and Janevski accompanied by a simple yet effective and almost progressive keyboard run. It’s not long before the song kicks into full gear, with some fantastic guitar work underlying yet another commanding vocal effort. The solo section on this album is among the most melodic we have heard in a long while from Black Majesty. In typical fashion, this contains another monster chorus which is instantly catchy at first listen and very hard to forget! This is right up there with some of Black Majesty’s finest work to date.

The album closes as it began with “Witching Hour” being another quality track containing all the Black Majesty hallmarks. This is one of the faster songs on offer here and sees every member of the band firing on all cylinders. The bridge in this song is one of the albums finest points, led by a (now typical) outstanding effort by Cavaliere. This is a track which is very hard to fault. If someone new to the band wanted to hear just one song to describe what Black Majesty is all about, “Witching Hour” would be a perfect track to play.

The Australian version of “In Your Honour” comes with a bonus track “Two Hearts”. Whereas a lot of bands usually tack on a filler track as a bonus in many cases, Black Majesty do not rest on their laurels here. “Two Hearts” is strong enough to make the final track listing on its own as it is a very good song in its own right. This catchy anthem contains outstanding musicianship throughout and is accentuated by a very impressive bridge/solo section where all members of the band really shine. Again Cavaliere is in fine form leaving no doubt he is one of the finest vocalists in the southern hemisphere.

The production duties for “In Your Honour” were handled by Roland Grapow (ex-Helloween, Masterplan). This was an inspired choice by the band as the production on the album is crystal clear. There is a lot of intricate riffing from Mohamed/Janevski and Harris, along with equally intricate drum fills right throughout courtesy of Konvalinka. Yet, with everything that’s going on, the mix is never muddy. This has been a very slight issue on some of Black Majesty’s earlier releases. This mix and production on this disc is especially convincing given Cavaliere’s vocal performance on this disc is still given the room to shine amongst some fantastic musicianship. Full credit must go to Grapow for an outstanding effort in this regard.

The artwork was once again handled by Dirk Illing (Scorpions, Gamma Ray, Running Wild, Wizard). The artwork continues the theme of the bands lady warrior making yet another appearance with her trusty lion as her protector. The 2-tone theme is continued once again, this time it’s white on black. This is simple yet effective and at a time when so many bands insist on changing logo’s and their visual presentation, it is refreshing to see Black Majesty continue with their proven theme. Their insistence on the same type of artwork and logo actually sets them apart from so many bands which is a good thing. The artwork itself is very classy, detailed, yet at the same time its understated, much like the band itself. It adds to the overall professionalism of the total package on offer here.

As for the band itself, this is a fantastic release from start to finish. The extra time and effort invested in the song-writing and performance on this album has definitely reaped rewards and is there for all to see. Cavaliere once again stakes his claim as one of the greatest vocalists in Australia and can more than hold his own against many of the bigger names in the industry. It is really his performance that elevates this album from being a “good” album to a “great” album. Hanny Mohamed and Steve Janevski are in inspired form throughout this album. Their styles are so different from each other that they are actually a great match in that, when combined, they bring a truly unique sound and style to the band as a whole. The disc also features some of their greatest work and they should be commended on a sterling effort. If ever there was a perfect bassist for Black Majesty, Evan Harris is that person. His performance on this disc is flawless and very clear in the mix. Harris’ bass riffs are more reminiscent of a lead guitarists work than a bassist and his work on this disc is phenomenal. Pavel Konvalinka managed to step up to the plate once again and lift his performance to the next level. His drumming on this disc is as good as you are ever going to hear. If Cavaliere has elevated himself to the upper echelon of vocalists through his performance on this album, then Konvalinka has done the same in the drumming stakes. This is an exceptional performance by the Czech. It’s hard to see the band members topping this effort, but that’s what I thought after hearing Tomorrowland! I’ll gladly wait another 3 years for the next chapter in Black Majesty’s story if they can continue to mature at this rate.

The only drawback of this album is that with 9 songs (excluding the bonus track) and a total running time a shade under 43-minutes, it is a bit short for my liking. The Australian version I have contains the bonus track of “Two Hearts”, however the European release has an additional bonus track where the band does an acoustic cover of one of their own songs “Silent Company” which I would have liked to have seen included here for something a bit different. The Japanese release comes with yet another bonus track “Hunt For You” which could have also been included on the Australian release. Having not heard these other bonus tracks I don’t know how they’d fit into the overall scheme of “In Your Honour” as a whole but if they are anything like the quality on offer here then they would be welcome additions. This is only a very minor drawback to an otherwise excellent album and is really nitpicking minor a minor aspect. The addage of “quality over quantity” definitely holds true on “In Your Honour”.

Overall, “In Your Honour” is a welcome return to form for Black Majesty and by far their finest effort to date. “Tomorrowland” was a good album but the band as whole have really taken the next step up on this disc and shown a greater maturity in their craft than ever before. Having heard this album quite a few times now, I have not felt the need to skip any tracks at all. This is as good a measure of the strength of this album as any! Furthermore, this is a band that has not cut any corners in any aspect of this album and the end result is a thoroughly professional package in both its content and presentation. Black Majesty have thrown down the gauntlet, not only to Australian melodic metal bands but most other “big name” bands in this genre.

8.5/10
Metal Obsession