With 'Eternal Empire,' you will quickly discover that this not the Human Fortress that you know and love. To be sure, the progressive metal remains, but Human Fortress is evolving and developing beyond their roots. With a simple spin into their first song 'Contrast,' you'll find that they are invoking themes from modern American metal: near dirty vocals mixed with the clean and even female vocals approximating gothic metal . Within all this there is the still melody and harmony European metal especially driven by exceptional keyboard arrangements and sterling guitar work. Human Fortress is venturing into avenues never explored before. Yet, I think they longed for a difference.
'Eternal Empire' is indeed a complex album. It will take you several listens to wrap your head and ears around this music. At first, I was dismayed because of the odd vocals, but soon the power of the song composition aroused my senses. This is a very good work from Human Fortress, probably their best, and definitely the most innovative. Do not be put off by Carsten Frank's (ex-Galloglass) vocals; he easily maneuvers between gruff and clean sounds (thanks in part to the fact that the majority of the band contributes with backing vocals). Completely riveting is when keyboard player Dirk Marquardt assumes control of a song as he does on 'Circle Of Flames' and 'The Wizard.' Another brilliant feature is the steady and excellent of drum work from Arndt Krone on 'Borders Of Insanity,' 'Lion's Den,' and 'Guide From heaven.' This fellow has both power and precision as pounds those skins.
Be certain to listen to 'Borders Of Insanity,' a thoroughly convincing mixture of modern, progressive, and melodic metal. 'The Wizard' brings a folk (almost Celtic) motif to an already strong prog metal number. 'When Love And Hate Collide' delivers a blend of power metal with some epic and traditional metal. I think, however, the best tracks wrap up the album. 'Lion's Den' continues the complex vocal arrangements with a convincing lyric. 'Circle Of Flames' surprises with some fine keyboard work about two minutes into the song; the vocals, however, are raw and dirty. 'Falling Leaves' finally brings us back to a more stylized heavy metal: the vocals are magnificent, the metal of a more traditional form, and again, there is some folk inspiration. The guitar work truly inspires. Thing get even better if you get the special two disc addition.
As a complete work, Human Fortress' 'Eternal Empire' will satisfy. You may find the vocal arrangements difficult. But I encourage you to listen to the whole work. There is much to enjoy here. Very recommended.
- Craig Hartranft
It's been almost five years since we heard from Human Fortress. The usual epic battle metal has morphed into modern progressive metal. You may be put off by the innovative and sometimes severe vocals But I believe you will find 'Eternal Empire' to be both interesting and innovative.