12.09.2014

Album Review | ARION - Last Of Us (English)

Release date: 22 August, 2014
Genre: Melodic Metal/Symphonic Power Metal

After such long waiting, "Last Of Us" is finally available for streaming in Germany and I really don't care that I'm writing this already since a long time planned review in the middle of the night because it feels like I'm waiting since weeks to finally to do so.
I'll immediately tell you that I'm not about to make fun of some young band's pathetic debut but I'm about to praise it, for Arion only deserve to be praised for what they're doing. I never experienced that a band new in the metal scene already convinced me with its debut. The genre symphonic power metal with progressive influences isn't exactly new and can very quickly sound stale. But not this time.

Arion absolutely know what variety means and yet don't throw everything in a pot and hope for the best. They have notion of how songs are structured, of putting solos at the right place in a song and of how to make a record sound complete. "Last Of Us" is for sure the result of hard work and years of practice. Every song sounds plain perfected. Nothing seems to lack and everything is at the right place. And that's rare, even for experienced bands.
Drummer Topias Kupiainen and bass player Gege Velinov give the music the right groove, while guitarist Iivo Kaipainen is shredding like the big ones. Arttu Vauhkonen puts the cherry on the cake with his keyboards and excels at divine piano solos as well as at modern melodies and harmonies. Last but not least, singer Viljami Holopainen's abilities are more than mentionable. As a vocalist, he certainly has a bright future ahead. On Arion's debut, he already shows his two and a half octaves vocal range from his lowest note D3 on "Watching You Fall" to his highest falsetto note A5 found at the end of "Out Of The Ashes". His versatile voice sometimes sounds soft and fragile ("You're My Melody"), but most of the time, you can hear powerful belting ("Seven", up to D5) and also really aggressive vocals and partially screams ("Watching You Fall", screams up to Gb5!).
It's just insane what these guys are able to do with their not even 20 years. I'm watching my same-aged friends how they miserabely cover famous rock songs and Arion rock as if they didn't do anything else in their lifes. There must be steel running through their veins or something.

Although the ten tracks of "Last Of Us" are in the same style, no song is comparable with any other. Fast songs optimally alternate with slower songs, so if you're looking for a relatively wide variety of genres, this record has plenty to offer. At the beginning, you can hear an impressive orchestra and a lot of power metal in "Out Of The Ashes", whereon the guys stand up with a modern song like "Shadows" with the focus on keyboards and vocals. "Seven" has been released as a single and is one of the most thrilling songs of the album. "Last Of Us" is a very soulful mid-tempo track and one of the highlights of the record. The fins show their progressive side with "I Am The Storm", a trenchant song with intense guitar and keyboard solos and changing time signatures.
So many bands throw ballads on their records just for the sake of having some emotional stuff going on. The only ballad on this album is called "You're My Melody", makes my heart melt and shows that the guys are even able to transform a slow song into a hymn. After scarce six minutes, "Burn Your Ship" kicks in and contains amazing vocal work, a quite straight structure and an extensive instrumental center section. "Lost" is one of the first songs Arion wrote for "Last Of Us" which was already magical and touching as a demo version for the candidateship for the ESC 2013. As an album version and with the aid of orchestrations, it's still one of the calmer and simultaneously one of the most epic and intense songs of the record.
The final of "Last Of Us" is as you would expect it from a great album: It caps it all and represents the band in the way it should stick in the listener's memory. "Watching You Fall" is a powerful song that surprises with relatively aggressive vocals.

The metal scene needed a band just like that. Many older metalheads still think that every 2010-era band only has djent-riffs and screaming included in its repertoire. This Finland-based band feels like a fresh breeze that blows away the dust from the slightly steady subgenre melodic power metal and approaches with self-confidence, emotion and skill. With their sound, Arion represent the new generation of metal.
Still, this eulogy shouldn't allure the guys from keeping up the good work. I'm curious of how the next years will turn out for Arion - in my opinion they are able to become the next scandinavian metal giants.

Listen to my interview with keyboarder Arttu Vauhkonen here.

Rating: 9/10
Highlights: Shadows, Last Of Us, Lost, Watching You Fall