Friday, May 24, 2013

PelleK - Ocean Of Opportunity (2013)

The babyfaced frontman whose voice has carried itself across the globe time and time again, Pellek, might not be the most recognized name in the world of modern melodic metal. Serving as the man behind the microphone of Damnation Angels, as well as his solo project, simply called PelleK, he has dazzled people the world over with his mix of soaring operatic vocals and glimmering stage presence. With the release of his latest solo work, the nine track offering titled "Ocean Of Opportunity," it may truly be time for this Norwegian powerhouse to come out of the shadows, and step into the lights on the brightest stage. Fusing everything from prog and power metal to the theatrical and classical influences of Broadway, he has shucked off any labels we could hope to use to tag his work. And this new album, in all of its pomp and circumstance, continues to defy logic. How can something so big, so clean, so intimidating be so magical at the same time? Pellek and his band of merry men are inviting you on a journey. And I suggest you tag along.

You would be hard pressed to find a more majestic opening track than "Elucidation," with its sweeping keyboard melodies sure to steal your breath, if only for a minute. With Pellek himself handling the keyboard duties, he contrasts himself beautifully in voice and synthesized melody. His vocals are magnificent in tone and range, something that is bolstered by the strength of the backing instrumental. Unlike many vocal heavy progressive power metal albums, the rhythm section takes a starring role, thanks to some massive drum beats courtesy of Stian Andrè Braathen. His counterpart, bassist Ingemar Bru adds a significant layer to the mix as well. But when the hammer drops on "Northern Wayfarer," amidst the thunderous drum gallop and darting keyboard notes, the tempo takes a step in a faster direction. It carries with it the tone of a heavy rock opera, with Pellek pushing his voice to the farthest reaches of its capabilities. The air of triumph that surrounds the track as a whole is not only refreshing, but invigorating. It pulls you further into the lyrics, just in time to be cascaded with a blazing guitar solo. The symphonic element is taken to new and exciting heights in "Sea of Okhotsk," and the addition of a well placed repeated vocal harmony takes it further. Guitarist Patrick Fallang earns his stripes here as well, crafting a sizable set of riffs to strengthen the mix.

There is not a moment that goes by without a dazzling melody or strong instrumental element at work, something that "Brigantine of Tranquility" illustrates time and time again. The way the baton is handed off is simply flawless, going from delicate piano to rolling double kicks, and into soaring vocals without the slightest stumble or fall. It helps to build the ever-important momentum as the album prepares for a transition to its second half. That transition, the delightfully upbeat "Gods Pocket" does more for the arc of the album that it would seem at first listen. After being fooled into thinking a downer of a ballad was coming, thanks to the sound of waves and keys, the jovial tune begins, backed with the constant flurry of drums and guitars. Pellek sees his voice take on that magical sound of joy, a sound that would certainly get a fan or hundred jumping off their feet. As if that weren't enough, "Stars and Bullet Holes" only keeps that ball rolling. It is impressive that Pellek can take you on a flowing journey with only instrumentals and well written lyrics, but that is exactly what he does. The track immediately transcends the standard power metal style and becomes a blockbuster of explosive guitars and drums. That it is condensed into a five minute package is even more noteworthy, with the substance feeling as though it could fill an entire album.

As the album moves to the final trio of songs, you get your first real change of mood and tempo. "Sky Odyssey" has one of the more delicate opening movements, allowing for Pellek to enter with a soothing vocal line over a quiet melody. He again pushes the barriers of metal, infusing so much of what makes the Broadway stage a magical place. The power and conviction with which he delivers his lyrical yarn is fitting of the larger than life production on display. Every kick drum shakes the speakers, but without ever sounding unpolished. With the orchestra now in tow, "Transmigration" erupts in a fit of heavy guitar riffs and piano keys. The storytelling element, which has been mentioned sparsely earlier, is at an all time high here. It isn't enough to hear the words being delivered, but you must take the time to examine them on the literary level. Pellek has outdone himself with his tales of travel and return. "I guess this is the end," Pellek announces as the finale, the nearly ten minute "The Last Journey" comes into frame. There are no surprises to be had at this point, as you know exactly what you're going to get. But in this case, unlike so many disappointments you've experienced in music, knowing what happens next doesn't dull the experience. The melodies are more intoxicating, the instrumentals are more energetic, and the vocals are more memorable. You have been pushed to the limits of your sensory abilities, and Pellek keeps you dangling there just until the point of madness.

With all of the elements at play on the album, Pellek could easily translate this into a highly successful Broadway show. His writing puts so many showtunes to shame, his power dwarfs many of his contemporaries, and the astronomical scope of the album makes the Hollywood we know today look like the downward spiral it truly is. But more than any of that, "Ocean Of Opportunity" is a major achievement in the world of modern metal. It goes beyond power metal, beyond progressive metal, and delivers something that many fans across the world have been waiting a very long time to witness. To say that this is the best power metal album of the year wouldn't be a stretch to anyone's imagination; but it wouldn't be a stretch to go further than that. What Pellek and company have done here is blurred the line between metal and virtuosic storytelling. And when the last notes fade away, the drum kit is packed up and ready to transport, something is going to linger. Years from now, we might be looking back and saying that this is a defining moment in the metal genre.


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