Cover art is “Geser Khan” by Russian artist/mystic Nicholas Roerich
Where does power come from? Not the electricity powering the device you are undoubtedly reading this on, per se (much to my chagrin, we still don’t have a scroll-by-mail subscription option). No, I’m talking about the power that electrifies the heart and nourishes the soul. The kind that overflows the chalice of the self with strength, will, determination, and resolve; the kind that makes an otherwise nondescript person feel like they could take on the world in a blaze of glory.
While all metal (and all music) contains hidden chests of power somewhere within the worlds crafted by their creators, there is a reason the term “power” gets attached to not one, but two sub-sects of the metal sphere. Neither hard-pounding US style nor the flurry of melodic speed from the European style of power metal make any effort to tuck the power away into the shadows – quite the contrary. They instead radiate with it, empowering the listener with uplifting choruses, soaring leads, twin-guitar attacks, and, of course, great haste in the speed department. Alberta’s Tower Hill manages to walk a fine line between the two, shedding any singular stylistic influence on their debut demo, Fighting Spirits.
The demo’s title track pushes things a little closer towards the blitzkrieg pace of European power metal. The speed metal roots remain, creating a song that falls somewhere close to Hibria on the power spectrum – fusing melodic rapidity with the thrashier side of US power. While the vocals don’t quite hit the stratospheric highs of their Euro brethren, they are perfectly serviceable in delivering an infectious chorus. Little moments like the high-pitched wail at the 0:46 second mark (and another one, also at 0:46 on the following track) or the accentuation of the gang vocals step outside of the comfort zone and add bits of flair and greater dynamics to the track. The alcohol references still slip their way into lyrics – it’s clear the demo’s title can be interpreted in more ways than one!
The final third of the demo completes the power spectrum, as “Antigone” leans most toward the stylings of Halloween and Blind Guardian, though the tinges of Thundersteel still anchors the band from going full-on European power. The vocals hit their smoothest delivery yet, building an emotional peak with, “Give your last breath,” before dropping into a confident, “Death! Is your weapon tonight!” “Antigone” certainly has the most of the lighter faire of power metal, conjuring feelings of hope, fortitude, and graceful sword work as opposed to the sheer might of the USPM side of the band. It’s a perfect closer that leaves the listener wanting more – and in that regard, Fighting Spirits truly is a demo. It showcases the vision of the project and cultivates a desire for more. The band are certainly are bringing the chops, and with but three songs have me sold and wanting to see what they can do with an album. Tower Hill taps into true power on Fighting Spirits that is undeniable, regardless of the stylistic framings put around it. It’s uplifting, free-spirited, and mighty. Take up thine sword, lift thy spirits, and keep on fighting.