Thy Majestie
Hastings 1066

Recently I’ve been wading knee deep in mediocre death metal and to be honest with you, the constant pounding, blasting and gurgling was wearing thin. What I needed was a musical respite of sorts, something uplifting, glorious and stress free. I needed some Italian power metal!

While it would be easy to call Thy Majestie Rhapsody clones, and indeed the comparison would be quite justified, as Thy Majestie do play the same kind of pompous, over the top theatrical “Hollywood” metal, there is a couple of very small differences. Firstly, I would wouldn’t quite rank them up there with the mighty Rhapsody, just yet, as Rhapsody have simply perfected this kind of music without peer. Secondly Thy Majestie, due to the concept of the album have a far more medieval/folky approach more akin to Elvenking or even Suidakra’s milder moments. Sure, there are the requisite soaring keyboards, operatic choirs, heavily accented power vocals and silky shirts abound, but quite simply if that kind of stuff is your gig, this album is a must have in the rapidly flooding genre, and sure to irritate death metal purists the world over.

Let me get one thing straight, I do not consider myself a power metal fanboy, having only three bands I currently own albums by; Manowar, Rhapsody and Elvenking – I do not, as a whole enjoy power metal vocals, but am allured by the fantasy/medieval/folk elements that the aforementioned bands and now Thy Majestie bring to the table. Add to that, that this is a concept album based on the most infamous battle in English history, and being from England, my interest was piqued. The guitar work is as to be expected; bouncing, galloping atmospheric riffs with lots of wind in the hair solos, but it never quite reaches the self imposed grandeur of Luca Turilli, and stays fairly grounded throughout the album. The vocals are again, genre specific, high end, although never glass-shattering high. Vocalist Dario Grillo, knows his range and stays in it, and simply lets the music do most of the legwork. His tone may even be a little deeper than most, and is very similar to Elvenking, not Rhapsody.

Now on to the really good stuff-the keyboards and choirs. It could be argued that if an album’s high points are its synths and choirs, the rest of the album must be crap. Not the case here – barely. Guisseppe Bondi does a nice job of blending the fantasy trappings of the power metal genre with the historical feel of the albums concept, and the result is a very film score/music soundtrack sound that is epic, atmospheric and at times simply breathtaking. He does however some close to ruining things with the odd moog sounding/space synth solo, that sounds way out of place. He is saved though by the Teatro Massimo Operatic Choir who absolutely put on a devastating choral display. It’s subtly different to the choirs used by Rhapsody; it’s a smaller but more powerful range of voices that brings a lot of the interludes/choruses a Basil Poledouris/Carl Orff feel. The male section of the choir reminded me a lot of the Manowar classic “The Crown and the Ring”, so if that kind of thing is your gig, you should be in hog heaven. Luckily, thanks to numerous interludes between almost every song, this keyboards/choirs are used fully and come shamefully close to outdoing the actual songs, of which only two or three I would consider great.

“Rerum Memoria” kicks of the prelude to war, with a suitably medieval sounding intro, which sets the mood for the history changing event. Then one of the albums better cuts “The King and the Warrior”, the choir led chorus will have you yelling, “WARRIORS AND KIIIINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!”, in your car on the way to work (or that could just be me that does that). Another folky interlude, then another of the albums better songs “Echoes of War”. It’s far more moody than most power metal with lots of tempo changes and not so much of the happy-happy-joy-joy material. The choir leads the song through a lot of moods, and is a sobering for a power metal song. However, if you want epic, you got it. Try the choral chant that overlays Dario through “The Sight of Telham Hill”; it’s utterly breathtaking. I could almost smell the oiled chain-mail at Senlac. As far as power metal goes it simply doesn’t get any better, the folky breakdown halfway through the song demonstrates how far Thy Majestie have come since the cliched The Lasting Power, although I certainly think the subject matter helped immensely, as it forced them to be a little more medieval and realistic rather than over-the-top fantasy. Songs six and seven are interludes, but only six is titled “Incipit Bellum”, and again allows the Teatro Massimo Choir to show off their grand talents in fine style. Thy Majestie actually come very close to being out performed by the choir, as without out it, this album might be just another power metal album, but with the dominating voices belting out such immense power, it becomes a very good album. The perfect example is “Anger of Fate”, is opened by the rousing choir, but then descends into a normal power metal ballad that Dario tries to carry but simply lacks the glory of the choir-dominated material. “The Pride of the Housecarl”- (Housecarls were medieval Secret Service Agents with battleaxes) brings the glory back with some vocal structures in the first minute that sent shivers down my spine.

To be honest though, by this point in the album I’ve had my fill of power metal, and the interest is waning a little, but quite simply the movie quality choirs have me hooked, even if I’m losing interest in the bouncy rhythms and historical content of the lyrics. As far as I can tell, these boys did their research lyrically, making key references to all the major event and players of Hastings. However, despite the many high points of this album, I had one nagging feeling at the back of my mind: the whole theory of putting a historical concept put to power metal. At times, it came very close to sounding like a horrid Broadway show put to metal. I kept seeing “Hastings! The Musical!” in bright neon lights in my head.

They do end the album on an odd high yet somber note, “Demons on the Crown” (i.e., the English losing to the French). Thy Majestie have proved themselves to be major players in the Italian power metal scene and Rhapsody should be looking over their shoulders lest they meet the same fate as King Harold at Hastings. Hang on, Harold got shot in the eye with an arrow. Maybe they won’t meet that fate, but bad rhetoric aside, Thy Majestie should be proud of themselves for releasing a solid power metal album that will give them a major foothold up the cheese and steel ladder of power metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 23rd, 2002

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