HFSometimes it’s hard to really quantify how much a band can really screw things up for themselves…and sometimes they just make it really easy! Five years ago Human Fortress – a German Power Metal band with a decent following, released “Eternal Empire”, an album so chock-full of third-rate Metalcore, that not only did they lose pretty much ALL of their existing fans, they failed to gain any new ones because they weren’t even very good at the nu-style they’d adopted. Wow, did they Drop The Ball/Scored An Own Goal/Hit their Wicket/Sniffed a Jock-strap (choose your own favourite sporting analogy) with that one!

Grovelling on bended knees, begging their so easily discarded previous fan-base to give them another chance, the band have returned with a new line-up and a promise to be closer to their original style. But is it good enough to win people back?

Frankly, would anything be? It could be the album of the year but if I’d forked out between 10 and 15 quid on an album which displayed such utter disregard for the band’s existing fans then it would take some forgiving. Let’s be honest, there’s plenty more bands out there playing Melodic Power Metal who value their fans, so by now I would have found plenty more to enjoy and certainly wouldn’t risk any cash on this without reading plenty of reviews!

Oh, but wait, I’m writing a review, and luckily I didn’t have to spend anything on their previous offering because a friend lent/gave me his copy with the simple worded judgement “Shite” to accompany it. But that was then, and “Raided Land” is now, so I can judge it based on it’s own merits and without bitterness.

“Raided Land” certainly has elements of Human Fortress’s impressive first two releases, but quite ironically I feel it lacks the bravery and diversity that those two had. Human Fortress veered towards a slightly edgy type of Power Metal – something which in part might have been down to the delivery of their previous vocalist, but this time around I think the band are so terrified of upsetting anyone that they have played it utterly safe! “Raided Land” is a good album, it’s got some good riffs and some good hooks. It occasionally leans further towards Melodic Metal than Power Metal at times, but they strike a decent balance and anyone brave enough to purchase the album shouldn’t be disappointed (unless said person was one of the very few who liked “Eternal Empire” and had heard nothing else by the band, in which case they would be seriously peeved!). Credit for many of the positives on “Raided Land” must go to new vocalist Gus Monsato, who has an excellent classic metal voice. His delivery is always faultless and engaging – but then he has had plenty of experience in Code Of Silence, Revolution Renaissance, Adagio, Takara and more. He is one of those vocalists who can lift the quality of a song by just being on it.

High points on “Raided Land” include the uber-catchy ‘Child Of War’, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Pink Cream 69 album, the bouncy Kamelot-esque ‘Under Siege’ and ‘Pray For Salvation’, which is a memorable mini epic. Lower points include some dodgy Celtic-style keyboard intros and ‘Guard The Blind’ NOT being a tribute to Blind Guardian with a title like that!

This is without question a high quality Melodic Power Metal release. OK, it’s a bit identity-less, a tiny bit generic at times and undoubtedly safe, but it is still very enjoyable! If this was the first time you’ve heard Human Fortress and you like Melodic Power Metal then you’ve picked a winner…but it isn’t the first time you’ve heard them is it? I really have tried to review this album as if “Eternal Empire” never happened, but it’s not easy. I applaud experimentation, growth, boundary pushing and diversity, but when a band does a total U-turn, a “Cold Lake” (Hi to all you Celtic Frost fans out there…some people have long memories…) for instance, can you ever really feel the same about that band again? Will they forever seem just a little hollow and slightly fake, no matter how much they claim to go back to their roots? I can’t help feeling a little bit like this about Human Fortress. I’m sure I’m not alone.

(7/10 Andy Barker)