Flying high above the sky following a triumphant 2019 debut that brilliantly merged the stylings of Helloween and Malmsteen, Majestica return with A Christmas Carol.
The original mastermind of Reinxeed and his cohorts take their proverbial act into the cosmos with a brilliant twist on a holiday tradition.
The power metal carolers cometh.
Although power metal mastermind Per Tommy Johansson, perhaps better known by his stage name Tommy Reinxeed, has been at his craft for nearly 20 years with much of it relegated to a project that bore his fictitious namesake, he has seen a meteoric rise to prominence in the past couple of years thanks to taking up his axe with Sabaton in 2016. The association proved quite advantageous and soon found him rebranding his original project as Majestica and signing a deal with Nuclear Blast, culminating in a fun-loving thrill ride after the heart of both German and Swedish melodic power metal and neo-classical shred dubbed Above The Sky. With his duties to Sabaton and an expected tour with his newly minted project expected to put some time between his eventual sophomore effort, things were thrown a bit of a loop thanks to the events of 2020 that naturally don’t require repeating, and we should all thank goodness as all the free time has resulted in one of the more substantial power metal studio outings in the past decade.
The European power metal style has always lent itself well to conceptual storytelling, but up until now, it hadn’t occurred to anyone to use the famed Charles Dickens holiday classic that is A Christmas Carol as the basis for a libretto. But not only has Johansson and company brought forth a highly ambitious, bursting at the seams celebration of this much-adored story, but have arguably created one of the most brilliant holiday music medleys ever set to record, all within the orthodoxy of a sub-genre that is known for its rich harmonic complexity. Such noted Christmas songs as “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Deck The Halls”, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Joy To The World” are just some of the entries that have their highly distinctive tunes adapted into what is essentially a highly involved work of musical theater, with all the beloved characters of the story impersonated by not only Tommy but the other three members of the bands.
Following a grandiose overture that quotes some of the aforementioned holiday jingles that have become cliché to most trustees of western civilization, this album unfolds in a manner that is both typical to anyone who has been following the symphonic power metal scene since the 2000s, yet also highly original due to what is being adapted. The exposition of Ebenezer Scrooge’s character, “A Christmas Story” has an air of joy and comedy to it that accurately contrasts the festive atmosphere of England during the holiday season with the protagonist’s crotchety demeanor, all the while blazing away with the same intensity that first captivated metal audiences back in 1987 when Helloween first unleashed the keys. The aforementioned film soundtrack set to metal atmosphere takes on a somewhat more disquieted tone on “Ghost Of Marley,” as Tommy’s lofty, quasi-operatic voice is accompanied by a more gritty one portraying the iconic character and the music becomes correspondingly darker.
The progression of the story never drags at any point on account of the music, or vice versa, as this musical adaptation proves as unrelenting as a mighty winter storm. Stand out moments include the cruising pomp of “Ghost Of Christmas Past,” which brilliantly adapts the melody of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to the verse segment as a cacophony of guitar harmonies and blaring orchestral sounds paint over the entire story, along with the stormy climactic point of Scrooge’s spiritual encounters “Ghost Of Christmas To Come,” which largely channels the “Carol Of The Bells” and mirrors the story’s sense of urgency and distress. All of that considered, there are no shortcomings to be found in the cathartic conclusion of “A Christmas Has Come” where all is made right to the joyous and whimsical sounds of bells ringing and bow-string instruments weaving a happy tune as Majestica’s core musicians add a triumphant, driving gloss to the whole occasion.
To label this a new classic wouldn’t quite be selling it to the extent that would do it justice. This is an all-out celebration of what European power metal can be capable of when all care for conventional thinking are set aside for a truly creative endeavor. Its brilliance lies not only in those original aspects that are brought to the table but in how perfectly they intermingle with the existing musical sources that are quoted, varied, and adapted into a summation of one of the most well-known stories out there. Every part of it, every single solitary note feels both appropriate and necessary to its brilliance; it’s just the true meaning of a work taken to its full and logical conclusion. Just about any metalhead that likes their preferred poison with all the trimmings that can be thrown in will find this album wanting for nothing, and we would like to see it join the holiday lineup on television here in the old continental United States. Play it loud, play it proud, as it’s the perfect way to bring in the holidays!
A Christmas Carol is out now.