Nima : With two strong demos Swedish Lancer already managed to win quite a reputation for itself in the heavy metal underground. The equally strong-titled debut from 2013 was also welcomed with open arms, and the ball began to roll. On the second album, ’Second Storm’, the quintet had set a huge step forwards and blew all doubts one may have had indefinitely. Metal giant Nuclear Blast had also noticed the band's qualities and – rightly – offered them shelter, releasing the band’s third album, 'Mastery' later this month.
On ‘Mastery’ the gentlemen have simply continued the line of the previous records. But they do have perfected the trick, again show progress on all fronts, and come with ten fantastic melodic NWOBHM and power metal tracks. As soon as the record bursts out with the up-tempo opener, ‘Dead Raising Towers’, the band immediately takes you in its grasp and hardly lets go on the following 52 minutes. The striking point is that power metal has the upper hand here, and that thereby especially the names Edguy and Avantasia come to mind. Don’t get me wrong though, because the Maiden-esque NWOBHM influences are ever obviously present.
On the previous records the band had already proved to possess the gift of writing memorable songs, and that is no different on ‘Mastery’. The album is quite sturdy and up-tempo in general. At the same time there is no lack on melody or diversity, making the total picture quite well balanced. This record simply has everything one may expect from a quality record of this kind; solid, catchy riffs, contagious melodies, beautiful solos, melodic, generally high vocals, and catchy vocal lines. The striking point however is the fact that the gentlemen dare to take more risks here, and go outside “the book” more often. And so the songs contain a lot more tempo- and mood changes than before, and here and there also show a more progressive approach. Fortunately the gentlemen have not exaggerated in that approach, keeping the intensity and the mood intact at all times. Not only does the album keep you focused from start to finish, but keeps standing tall even after multiple listens in a row. The only song that I find a bit less appealing is the ballad-esque ‘World Unknown’, that eventually loses the attention due to the constantly repeating of the chorus.
Altogether with ‘Mastery’ the band has delivered it most versatile, and most complete album to date. On both instrumental and vocal level the gentlemen had already proved of their abilities on the previous records, but have developed their skills even further. Especially vocalist Isak Stenvall delivers his most impressive vocal performance so far, and proves to be one of the better vocalists in this genre. His voice is not only beautiful, but also has a lot of charisma and power that reminds me of Bruce Dickinson’s. Just like its predecessor ‘Mastery’ was recorded in Leon Music Studios with Gustav Ydenius (a.o. Steelwing), but this time Michael “Miro” Rodenberg (a.o. Avantasia, Edguy, Luca Turilli) has been responsible for the mastering, and so sonically the album blasts a bit harder. Shortly put: ‘Mastery’ is a blast of a record that fans of melodic, yet sturdy heavy and power metal can purchase without a second of doubt.