6 years after the release of their first album, the Finnish supergroup Cain’s Offering, featuring Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius) and Jani Liimatainen (ex-Sonata Arctica), is back with another new record. This time, metal’s best keyboard player, Jens Johansson (also from Stratovarius), has been added to the fold. This lineup is enough to convince any power metal fan that “Stormcrow” is worth a purchase, and fortunately for those of us that went in blind based on the names alone, this album delivers. From the opening epic choirs of “Stormcrow”, right until the beautiful melodic ballad “On The Shore”, this album is a testament to the value of having plenty of experience in the subgenre. As much as I hate using stock terms like “mature”, that really feels like the best way to describe this album, as it is clear that the band members are focused solely on writing great songs, and avoiding cheap thrills to catch the listener’s ear. Make no mistake; there is still plenty of over the top double bass, and some flashy keyboard and guitar playing, but “Stormcrow” does not rely on any of these to make an impact.
The above description may cause concerns that this album is similar the numerous power metal bands who continually mellowed-out and became boring as their discography became larger, but that isn’t the case here. There are a couple of ballads, but even the mid-paced songs are still pretty heavy. The keyboards tend to be a bit more orchestral in nature, and this makes the entire album sound huge, even when a particular riff might be tame (the ending of “Too Tired To Run” comes to mind). Unfortunately this factor pretty much wipes out the bass almost entirely, with a few exceptions whenever there is a verse with no guitars and minimal keyboards, but this isn’t a problem as the big name players are what drive Cain’s Offering. The drumming is very competent, but doesn’t standout at all. It really doesn’t need to though.
As you might expect, Timo Kotipelto is the star of this album. His range is not what it once was, but he knows the sweet spots in his voice and always hits them. He does an excellent job of delivering the power in power metal, but he can also completely own a ballad, as he does twice on this record (the aforementioned “Too Tired To Run” and “On The Shore”). There are quite a few songs where his performance elevates the track to the next level, and these songs tend to be the highlights. Even without him, however, the band still rules. The 6-minute instrumental “I Am Legion” is every bit as potent as the rest of the record, and even though it is near the end of the album and feels beyond grandiose and epic, it never gets tiring.
“Stormcrow” is not deserving of too much criticism. After numerous listens, the only consistently jarring moment is the main melody of “Antemortem”, which sounds far too close to Nightwish to truly be called a Cain’s Offering song. Nevertheless, the rest of the song makes up for this similarity by providing incredibly fun and memorable melodies. Aside from this, I’m always the first to recommend a shorter album, but even the weakest tracks (“My Heart Beats For No One” and “Rising Sun”) are awesome. If anything, this album might not be as obviously catchy as Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica, but it comes back to the idea of musical maturity, and Cain’s Offering has truly achieved it!
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“Constellation of Tears”
“On The Shore”
4.4/5 or 88%.