I was first alerted to Loch Vostok by a number of ProgPower goers. That was about three years when “Reveal No Secrets” came out. “V: The Doctrine Decoded” is their fifth album release.

When I first heard the name, I imagined Loch Vostok’s music to have something eerie and mystical about it, but in fact it’s as direct as it gets. The band have been around since 2001 and it’s interesting to note that the three founder members decided to get away from the ethos of pure power metal and create something meatier. Well, they sure have done that. It’s an all-out assault of highly charged melodic metal, emotive harmonies, growls, death metal, thrash metal, progressive passages, guitar virtuosity, and a wall of sound adorned with heavy technicality. The sound production is clear and intelligent, and it’s catchy.

Tracks fly by in the whirlwind of power and energy, more so than what I recall of Loch Vostok’s previous works. All these diverse elements remind me of a ramped-up version of Mercenary, one of my favourite bands. The Swedes succeed in replicating and surpassing the Danes’ heavy technical thrash style combined with a progressive edge and a sophisticated form of power metal.

As the opening track “The Seeker” blends into “A Tale of Two Kings”, I hear yet more crunchy sounds and lofty heights being reached. The hardened edge of “Syndrome of Self” dispels all doubt that the cheese of Loch Vostok’s former incarnation has melted, but the power metal is still alive. Loch Vostok simply don’t do small sounds. “Citizen Cain” starts epically – what else. It’s all breathless, emotion-sapping action. The clean vocals, which are pure and delivered with exquisite power, finesse and personality, combine with screams and the all-out aggressive sound.

Modern melodic metal gives way to progressive flourishes. The lyrics can be poignant and timed to be hooky: “Loyalty is lost, sympathy is gone, where are you, I need you” may not sound profound, but it’s all in the delivery. “Twilight of the Dogs” has the usual thundersome melody, sounding also uncannily like the so-called cyber metal of Mnemic in both the instrumental assault and harmony. What you don’t get with Mnemic however is a progressive passage in the middle. There’s no set pattern here. Loch Vostok guide us along.

“Claim the Throne” has a section of Dream Theater style prog finery blended into the statutory wall of sound and edgy melo-death. This is an adventure. Excitement and tension surround us. In another twist, “Inflict Chaos” is as near as it gets to a ballad, but don’t worry. The emotional vocals are a strong accompaniment to a war-like rhythm. This band doesn’t know how to hold back. Nerve-jangling expansiveness mixes with the customary aggressive and growls. The control is tight yet the music is free to go where it wants. “Common Ground” is another heavy epic number with growls and an immaculately timed catchy chorus, which reappears after a metal excursion to capture our senses. It’s huge. “Ravenous” is more from the territory of progressive power metal, while “Regicide” is more commercial on this paradoxically commercial album, given all the styles and twists. The drummer smashes his way belligerently through the power metal core. The atmosphere is ominous. The chorus has a distinct pop element to it as do many of the choruses, but you could never call this pop. As if to prove this point, a curtain of heaviness comes down. To close the album, Loch Vostok do just the right thing and do not challenge us further. Instead they reinforce their strengths on “Beyond the Obvious”, parading their ability to produce a melodic form of extreme metal, not unlike Disbelief in the riff, and a sophistication to go with that heaviness and that ever strong melody.

Appropriately Loch Vostok are taking part on the “Progressive Assault” tour. That’s just what this is. It may bear similarities to the music of other artists but this is fresh, exciting and all that is good about Scandinavian melodic metal. In “V: The Doctrine Decoded” this group of highly talented musicians have unleashed an album of utter magic, power, excitement and adventure. It brought tears to my eyes. There are good albums, better ones and ones that obsess me. I am completely obsessed with this album.

(9.5 / 10 Andrew Doherty)