Derdian’s ‘Limbo’ is an excellent example of power metal done correctly

by Ben

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I haven’t written a music review since Tennis’ Cape Dory way back in 2011, and that was on my now-defunct website which will henceforth never be spoken about. But in listening to Derdian’s newest effort, Limbo, I couldn’t help myself. I simply had to fire up the old word processor and pen something which hopefully pays homage to how compelling the album actually is.

When taken as a whole, power metal albums are generally as exciting as a visit to the proctologist, which is why Limbo sat in my ‘to-listen’ playlist for the better part of two months. I was far too busy with Sabaton and/or Fairyland to bother with something untested and unlistened. Then, a couple days ago, I allowed Spotify to play through my list and was immensely surprised at the overall quality of Derdian’s majestic concoction.

Limbo kicks off the euphony with a 1:25 piece entitled ‘Carpe Diem.’ It’s not much, but this little snippet of tunage successfully introduces the following hour’s epic scope. With lyrics like “mind explosion/without reason/the beginning/of a new season,” the track is a superb exordium. “Let the music take your spirit/let a great emotion overcome it” serves as a fantastic bridge into the album’s best track.

‘Dragon Life’ is a saga of transforming a shitty existence and making it something worthwhile. With high-pitched vocals, a bitchin’ guitar solo, and pernicious keys, this song is a triumph. Excellent and explicit lyrics complement the phonic construction to a precise degree: “Do you still believe now that a/life at a desk is appealing why don’t ask/to yourself if here you can get more.” It continues with this mini ballad:

In your life you decide what you want to do
If you want a dragon life or live like a fool
Take your time, choice’s not mine
Sometimes neither yours
Fate will open all the doors
The dragon life, of course!

It might not seem like such an ode to prominence on paper, but with Ivan Giannini’s dynamic vocals and the deleterious keyboards by Marco Garau, ‘Dragon Life’ is a grandiose narrative of a man deciding whether to take  “a dragon life or live like a fool.” It’s enchanting to the end, and it’s far-and-away the ace of Limbo.

"Look how fucking tough we are"

“Look how fucking tough we are”

In the beginning, ‘Forever in the Dark’ appears to be nothing more than a throwaway track; but halfway through, things shift gears and it harkens to the groups which auspiciously combine power metal with its more heroic brothers, symphonic and viking metal. It’s glamorous and seductive, and it really opens the door wide for the rest of the album.

Which, thankfully, is as awesome as noticing that Allegra Versace looks strikingly similar to Marilyn Manson.

‘Heal My Soul’ provides an instructional guide to “drive my phantoms away,” which deftly references ‘Dragon Life’ and, indeed, the entire collection. ‘Light of Hate’ is doubtlessly the most haunting track on the album. Perched amidst  sweeping and simultaneously-aggressive riffs and unrelenting drums, the song details a father beating the main character’s mother and the need for quick vengeance: “I took a bottle of his own Jack/blinded by my hate/I broke and strongly stick it deep in his neck.” It’s powerful and malignant.

‘Limbo,’ the titular track, shows some signs of weakness, which is really unfortunate considering its protracted length. Its main theme once again alludes to the album’s primary thesis: “Thinking my life is suspended somewhere/hidden in a 9 to 5 lair” poignantly insinuates a strong hatred of conformity. However, the melodic architecture leaves something to be desired; it’s flat and uninspired, even with the inclusion of fetching keys.

‘Kingdom of Your Heart’ demonstrates a deviation from the previous tracks. It’s more romantic serenade than power metal fantasy, and its lyrics are justifiably robust: “No time to cry/no time to die/until I’ll be there/there will be no place/safer than your arms/let me hold your dreams.” Likewise, ‘Strange Journey’ portrays a dreamy peregrination which surprisingly doesn’t explicitly reference any previous track. It’s a pleasure all the same.

When judged in its entirety, Limbo is a magical adventure. Generally -at least from my perspective- power metal albums feature a small handful of quality tracks nestled amongst weaker counterparts. It’s a matter of picking and choosing the best from the rest; here, though, Derdian has produced a complete package. Certainly some songs are stronger than others, but as a continuous product, Limbo excels. I highly recommend it to all fans of power metal, and for those who haven’t taken up the metal crusade, it’s a good introduction to the genre.

Conclusion: A little depressing, but damn good. 4.5/5.0

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