[Cover artwork by Dimitar Nikolov]
Somewhere out there right at this very moment, a power or power-related metal band is putting together a new album and hoping the material is extraordinary enough to tempt the strength and energy of Swedish vocalist Daniel Heiman from his lofty hideaway for a guest spot. To be clear, a song here and there over the last two decades hasn’t been all that rare, but full albums following the demise of Heiman’s second power metal band, Heed, that produced 2005’s The Call? All too rare. We had Crystal Eyes’ Confessions of the Maker (also in 2005), Harmony’s wonderfully infectious Theatre of Redemption in 2014 (and a follow-up EP in 2015), and finally, the scorching Dimhav debut, The Boreal Flame, which hit the planet out of seemingly nowhere back in 2019. (My top album of that year, for whatever that’s worth.)
Before moving forward, let’s take a quick step back. If you remain unaware of the name Daniel Heiman and find yourself wondering “what’s all the hubbub, bub” (side note: If you’re at all familiar with my escapades here at Last Rites over these many years, I’m really not sure how that could be possible), know that his work with the very sadly short-lived Lost Horizon in the early aughts essentially turned power metal on its head. Generally speaking, that particular off-shoot isn’t known for rocking the boats first launched into Euro waters by bands such as Helloween and Blind Guardian—something most fans spend very little time complaining about, mind you—but things were beginning to feel fairly old hat by the time the new millennium hit. With the release of Awakening the World in 2001, however, new life suddenly whooshed in at the behest of Lost Horizon. And really, what would that debut and the 2003 follow-up, A Flame to the Ground Beneath, be without Heiman behind the mic? With songs like “Highlander (the One)” to consider, it’s best to not even explore such inauspicious prospects.
In summary: Daniel Heiman is a force to be reckoned with, and if he says “YEP” to a full album of singing, said record must be pretty special.
// ENTER WARRIOR PATH //
Formed in Athens, Greece by guitarist Andreas Sinanoglou, Warrior Path first addressed the world with its self-titled debut in 2019—a solid launch made all the more interesting by the fact that the record was entirely conceived at the age of 18 when Sinanoglou was in high school and first learning to put his love of epic heavy metal to full use. He kept the songs stored in his brain for years, and the work was eventually brought to light once he approached metal vet Bob Katsionis (ex-Firewind: keyboards and live rhythm guitar from 2004-2020) in his studio without so much as a demo in hand. Katsionis was impressed enough with Sinanoglou’s vision that he helped see the project through to the end—not only providing production, but adding bass, keyboards and second guitar, with drums being filled out by Dave Rundle, a longtime friend of Sinanoglou’s. Additionally, it was Katsionis who was responsible for convincing Beast In Black vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos (the same individual responsible for the amazing performance on last year’s Sacred Outcry release) to guest behind the mic.
What the debut lacked in originality, it more than made up for with heart and vigor, and it was certainly enough to land Warrior Path on the map for underground fans interested in traditional heavy metal with an epic flare. Album number two, however—The Mad King—outshines the debut in virtually every respect. It’s more adventurous, brighter, fuller, riffier where it needs to be, and prettier when it really counts. Think of it as a shift from early 80s to late 80s: Maiden and Manowar still lurk in the shadows, but it’s Seventh Son and Kings of Metal colliding with a healthy dose of clean Swedish power in 2021.
Hard to deny an epic metal song that comes right from the gate like the soundtrack to Conan crushing calories (and seeing them driven before him) on the wheel of pain. That bright melody early on is so inviting, and then Sinanoglou flattens you just before the 1-minute mark with a riff that makes it clear he’s leveled-up his game. The chorus is perfectly catchy, and Heiman’s trademark “whoa-oh-oh-ohhhhhs” make their first appearance before Katsionis launches into a scorching lead.
“His Wrath Will Fall” and the ensuing “Beast of Hate” are two of the more direct songs on the album—punchy, bright and fairly speedy, with the latter sounding the closest to a classic Swedish power metal cut. In contrast, the rest of the fare is more varied in that the galloping, riffing and sharp wails are offset by more delicate components such as acoustic guitar, background keyboard orchestration / atmospherics, and just an overall more somber mood that really helps keep things captivating from start to finish.
What’s particularly satisfying about the two latest Daniel Heiman ventures—Warrior Path and Dimhav—is the fact that the music he’s reinforcing is magnificent and heroic in and of itself. Duh, right? While I’m certainly not one to claim the two Lost Horizon albums would be outright lumps of coal without Heiman’s vocals lifting them to the heavens, it’s absolutely his voice and his performance that make said records essential. With a release like The Mad King, Heiman’s impeccable voice augments equally superb music via the rest of the players. Sinanoglou’s riffing, acoustic work and overall songcrafting is terrific, while Katsionis consistently hits the target dead center on each song with sublime lead work and a bass presence that would make Joey DeMaio grin for a week. The whole record is just stacked with engaging surprises one turn after the next, but holy hell does it ever push the righteousness to the rafters with the three closing tracks.
Must one be a power metal fanatic in order to fully enjoy the ins and outs of a record such as The Mad King? In some regard, sure. Or at least more so than the debut, I’d confess. But then that perhaps opens the door to the following reality many of us have nudged at for years: Power metal is great for the soul, so why shouldn’t we all drink deep of its wealth? The beauty of Warrior Path circa 2021 is the truth that their brand of power is varied enough that it should net all sorts of foot traffic, whether ye be trad-minded, epic-obsessed, or crazy for all things USPM. The bottom line is that it’s just great metal that makes you feel powerful. What more could one hope for while enduring an age where negativity swirls like a demonic tornado around seemingly every bend?
The Mad King… In a word: Magnificent. Please bring us more in the future.