SerenityAustria’s Serenity are on album number five. Even their debut was top class Symphonic Power Metal (if you’ve not heard them think Sonata Arctica leaning slightly more towards Symphonic, rather than Power Metal…though Serenity certainly still have their moments!), so the bar was set high from the start and the band have continued to put out top quality material from then on. Their dalliance with male and female vocals on the last album seems to be over (which is a shame because although they didn’t really use the female vocals enough in my opinion it did set them apart from Sonata Arctica and the like) so this format has been stripped back to one duet type ballad and a little on the intro. All in all, this feels a little more like the follow up to 2010’s “Death and Legacy” (without discounting the last album totally of course, it just had a slightly different vocal approach, the music was the same style).

But have I got the right running order? I only ask because this album has a quite stunning 2 minute intro, as dynamic and dramatic as you could want, that builds and builds…and then first track proper, ‘Follow Me’ fair whimpers in with a jaunty, twiddly piano piece and THEN a big stonking guitar riff finally kicks in and we’re off and running. Why bother with the piano? It adds nothing – detracts if anything – so why not bring the guitar in straight away? Is that too predictable maybe? I’ll give the band the benefit of the doubt. Besides, as good an opening track as it is, I want to move on to the next one purely because it’s called ’Sprouts Of Terror’! What hellish Christmas dinner nightmare do we have in store? Let’s face it, many of us have regretted an encounter with the little green buggers, but I’ve never been actually terrified by a sprout! Ahh…listening to the lyrics I may have the wrong kind of sprout…well if I made the mistake others might. (Crashing on…) It is one of Serenity’s heavier tracks and balances almost Speed Metal, with Power Metal and a very catchy and melodic chorus. It’s what Serenity do so well…if you can get past the title.

The band have certainly upped the Epic (-a?) on “Codex…”, ‘Iniquity’ should have ancient pirates plundering all over the video clip (as well as maybe even joining in with the chorus!) and closing track ‘The Order’ is as Symphonic and dynamic as they have ever been. The album is not short on power or heaviness, it’s also not short on ballads either. There’s a couple on here (and one more power metal song that tries to turn into a ballad for some reason…) which are the kind of thing the fans seem to like, nice enough, but a bit too whimsical for me.

Fans of the symphonic genre will not be disappointed and I’m sure current fans of the band will be overjoyed by the return to the formula they are known and respected for. Serenity do what they do so well and as much as I may have grumbled about ballads, the intro/first track combo and possible vegetable anarchy, it’s only because as purveyers of Epic, Melodic Symphonic Power Metal it’s hard to find fault with Serenity – a band at the top of its game is hard to criticise.

(7/10  Andy Barker)