Achelous – Tower Of High Sorcery Review

Achelous’s The Icewind Chronicles seemingly came from nowhere. Charming, I called it, back in the yesteryear that was 2022. Icewind was a strikingly confident and engaging collection of songs that felt, if nothing else, lovingly crafted. Another trad/power metal treat from Greece.

From the gorgeous cover, by Chilean artist Silvana Massa, to the more consistent songwriting, Tower of High Sorcery builds on the momentum of Icewind. The art, of course, is just a window into the world of Tower, but it’s an effective mood setting device. Admittedly, without listening to the music itself, the red sky and robe struck me as a bit awkward tonally but at about the halfway point it clicked. There’s clearly something in the water in Greece that puts the grand in grandiose, because somehow this already quite high-sounding band became higher in two years.

To their credit, the immediate impression here is that Achelous leaned hard into world-building and developed a sound from the narrative. Whether that’s true or not, the album leaves that impression. High replay value is the ultimate effect, moreso than Icewind, even, which had a similar feel. There’s a uniformity to Tower that wasn’t as present in Icewind, so the songs find their footing a bit quicker. Even if you don’t follow the lyrics, you will soon feel conversant in the highs and lows – the energy – of the music.

Release date: March 22, 2024. Label: No Remorse
Opener “Dragon Wings” brings the energy early. And like any good teaser, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, clocking in at just under four minutes—just enough for a sing-song chorus and some killer soloing amongst the gallops. Initially, the plodding “Istar (Blood Red Sea)” feels like a bit of a misstep after the rush of energy in “Dragon Wings,” but with repeated listens, the nuance in the change of pace, relative to “Dragon Wings” and within the song itself, reveals itself in unexpected ways.

Not unlike Icewind, though, the clearest winners here are the songs where the band keeps things relatively simple, weaving a few excellent riffs into shorter tracks with punch. “Fortress of Sorrow” and “Into the Shadows,” the latter featuring Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer), are the shining examples, and they are perfectly placed on the tail end of Tower to leave you wanting more. “Into the Shadows,” in particular, is a stellar tune, and I’d like to see a full album of similarly punchy songs.

Tower of High Sorcery is another quite excellent album from Achelous – one that delivers, but also promises greater things to come. And, sure, beggars can’t be choosers, but please, Achelous, bring us those greater things with a quick follow-up of shorter tracks like “Into the Shadows.” An EP would do.

Posted by Chris C

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