I’ll be the first to admit that when I became indoctrinated within the Melodic Power Metal genre, I’d initially found myself openly embracing what I felt were then the most ‘obvious options’ (i.e., Kamelot, Stratovarius and a pre-lawsuit Rhapsody). Although this cross-section certainly allowed me to embark on a novitiate exploration, it prevented me from experiencing everything it had to offer. You can only imagine my delight upon discovering Stockholm, Sweden-born masters Metalite courtesy of the Emma Bensing-fueled Heroes In Time (2017). Armed with a a seemingly insatiable penchant for combining equal elements of Electronica and Fantasy amid a modern Power Metal framework, their future appeared bright as they soon morphed into a well-oiled musical unit. Now, led by multi-octave vocalist Erica Ohlsson (the Mortemia gem “Lost Horizon”), the unnervingly prolific quintet at last appears destined for greatness with the release of their fourth full-length offerings Expedition One (2024).
On the brilliant Expedition One (2024), an expertly assembled sixteen (!) song collection of Sci-Fi-‘infused’ Melodic Power Metal, each track, beginning with the thunderous, hook-laden ‘clarion calls’ of “Expedition One” and the relentlessly pummeling lament “Cyberome”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Wasting little–if any–time obliterating their few would-be detractors with a delightfully over-the-top array of shred and Symphonic theatri-cs, the group delivers the proverbial goods early and often. Eliciting fond–but perhaps not entirely unexpected– memories of Amaranthe, classic Gamma Ray and Helloween and perhaps even Primal Fear (as it all pertains to their understandably necessary usages of the now-trademark Power Metal chorus styles that are now playing in your head), the oddly-prolific group storms ahead without, believe it or not, sounding either assembled or dated.
Continuing with the grandiose, emotionally-overwrought tour de force “New Generation” and the galloping call-to-arms/rally-cry “Disciples Of The Stars”, the airtight–to say the very least–combination of vocalist Erica Ohlsson, guitarists Edwin Premberg and Robert Örnesved (Castillion), bassist Robert Majd and often prolific d-rummer Lea Larsson (ex-Imber, ex-The Bullseye Dirt, ex-Votur) steamrolls ahead with a truly sickening ease. Exceeding even the most optimistic of expectations, the group drives home each key focal point with an assault that deftly engulfs the proverbial average listener. Wisely refusing to condemn themselves to the ‘tried and true’ formulations favored by the crème de la crème of the anointed elite, the group avoids the creative plateauing that such virtuoso abilities tend to yield, leaving a sense of satisfaction in their wake. Offering a painstakingly distillation of their modus operandi, the group does indeed appear färdig for the heights of international acclaim.
Co-Produced, Mixed and Mastered by a formidable tandem of Premberg and the oft-acclaimed Jacob Hansen (Amaranthe, Primal Fear, Volbeat) at Hansen Studios, the end results of their more-than-considerable efforts are indeed worthy of the highest of critical and commercial accolades. The highly-anticipated follow-up to it’s often ingenious predecessors A Virtual World (2021) and Biomechanicals (2019), other standouts, including the impo-ssibly upbeat jewel “Sanctum Of Light” and the often ethereal–albeit undeniably effective–closer “Hurricane”, only further reaffirm the group’s rightful place in the upper echelon of the genre. While their unnervingly slick, multi-layered compositional tone might not be for everyone (particularly those with little interest in broadening their musical horizons), one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the group’s ability to successfully navigate a less-than-hospitable environment. Love it or loathe it, this might just be as good as ‘modern’ Power Metal gets.
At the risk of repeating myself, a question remains: what, exactly, are you waiting for? As aficionados of all things Heavy Metal and Heavy Metal-related, you owe it to yourself (and anyone in your immediate vicinity) to gleefully partake. With Ohlsson, Premberg and Örnesved operating within a true creative vertex, the majority–if not all–of the maddeningly infectious wares contained herein resonate with a razor-sharp sense of precision that separates them from their contemporaries. Easily one of the most deftly-executed Melodic Power Metal releases of the rapidly-waning year, Expedition One effectively represents what might very well become the future of the genre. Needless to say, if you’ve once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly-imaginative alternative to the blasé, paint-by-numbers atrocities that are often force-fed en mass via our charts and airwaves, then this, my friends, may just be the high-octane counter-irritants for whatever ails you. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.