Californian Power Metallers Helion Prime make a welcome return with their 2nd album, and the immediate difference that anyone familiar with Helion Prime’s debut will note is that the new vocalist is sporting a beard! Unremarkable you might think, but it would have been a step too far for original vocalist Heather Michele Smith, or indeed her interim replacement Kayla Dixon. Both those fine vocalists are now busy with Graveshadow and Witch Mountain respectively, so the band have turned to unknown male singer Sozos Michael and on the vocal evidence recorded here, it was a shrewd move.

The band’s debut attracted slightly lazy comparisons like Unleash The Archers and Seven Kingdoms, again mainly down to the ‘power metal band with a female singer’ tag, but with Sozos Michael now in the fold your average reviewer will have to work a tad harder. Bugger. Oh well, when something is as professional and polished as this album the job is a pleasure! There’s a bit of Pyramaze about first-track-proper ‘A King Is Born’ (there’s a scene-setting intro that precedes it), whereas the following track ‘Bury The Sun’ has a heavier, more urgent feel that keeps it’s catchy chorus under wraps until it has thoroughly bombarded you previously.

The production on the album is crisp and clear, emphasising the band’s energy, power, ferocity and melody when required. And it’s clear that this is not an album that repeats it’s style track after track – there’s a real progressive Symphony X feel to ‘Atlas Obscura’, especially around the chorus as well as in the music and lead-work. ‘Urth’ launches into ultra-catchy ultra-speedy Dragonforce territory, before the album eases back a little (in speed rather than heaviness) with ‘The Human Condition’, which has (like a few of the band’s other tracks) a faint echo of a little known Melodic Power Metal band called Viron (musically and especially vocally). ‘Spectrum’ is as close as the band get to a ballad…which is still pretty far away – a track that emphasises the melancholy rather than reels in the power.

‘Silent Skies’ is up next, which has a rhythmic urgency akin to bands like Sinbreed/Blind Guardian, sporting another great chorus and excellent performances from all concerned, before the band throw everything previously mentioned and more at their epic 17:16 minute closing title track, which also incorporates some guest female vocals, which is a nice nod to the band’s previous incarnation. This is a band that take their music very seriously indeed, but prove with their album title and their arrangements that they also have a fun, playful side. This is an album that although happily under the Power Metal banner is not afraid to push the restraints this might entail to let each track breathe and flourish. Therefore the entire album is intelligent, interesting and dynamic. It’s no surprise that a top label like AFM snapped this band up and they will be expecting more of the same from Helion Prime in the future. Here’s hoping!!

(8/10 Andy Barker)