My first exposure to Human Fortress was a couple of years ago hearing “track of the week” from the Focus on Metal podcast. Scott and Richie played the song “Wasted Years” from their 2013 release Raided Land. The sense of melody that song had really stuck with me. While I had not heard of Human Fortress until that day, as a band they have been together in various lineups since 1997. Raided Land was considered a “comeback” album because it was a return to their original power metal sound after briefly exploring a more modern, slightly metalcore sound with their previous Eternal Empire release in 2008. It also marked their first recordings with the current lineup of founding members Volker Trost, and Torsten Wolf on guitars, Apostles Zaios drums, Dirk Liehm keyboards, and new additions Andre Hort on bass, with vocalist Gus Monsanto. Sounding like real contenders in German power metal, I jumped at the chance to review their new release Thieves of the Night.
“Amberstow” opens the album off right. The acoustic guitar opening sets an epic feel to what turns out to be a classic, fast-paced metal song. The next two songs, “The Last Prayer to the Lord” and “Rise or Fall”, have an epic feel to them but drone on a bit and have a slow pace. The title track begins with what is a run of the four best songs on the album. “Thieves of the Night” has a glorious pre-chorus that leads into a headbanging chorus. “Thrice Blessed” starts with a smooth groove that leads to a very cool broody sound throughout the song. “Hell Rider” is one of those songs that has an infectious melody. After hearing the chorus one time I have been singing it out loud ever since. Melody lines are definitely one of the biggest strengths of this album. “Just a Graze” shuffles through the verses then delivers a soaring, glorious chorus. Next is the anthemic “Vicious Circle” that is a fast paced, catchy tune. The instrumental “Smite on the Anvil” leads into the extremely catchy, slow tempo “Dungeons of Doom”. Listen to this song one time I guarantee you will be humming it in your head the rest of the day. “Gift of Prophecy” has a classic acoustic opening that leads to what could have been a lost song from the first Iron Maiden album. Sounding like it was in a time capsule, in the verses Gus Monsanto is channeling his inner Paul Di’Anno. Then album ends with what I consider a beautiful ballad, “Alone”. This song really highlights the great quality of Gus‘s voice.
While I did not come across any songs I didn’t like, there are some slow, droning, and even choppy sections that keep me from loving every one. However, from a melodic standpoint, there are some real standout moments, particularly in the back half of the album. Fans of power metal will like this album and its diverse collection of sounds. If every song is worth a point, I would give this album 7.5 out of 11.