This album hits right in the middle of my favorite kind of metal. I love European symphonic / power metal and am a big fan of female vocalists with huge voices. I say this mainly because I can be a tough critic of this type of music and with more and more of this metal coming out it is raising the bar on what a great album is. Nuclear Blast seems to have put a lot of promotion behind Follow The Cipher, so expectations are huge. I have been dying to get my hands on this album and have been listening to it for about a week. So often, they hype does not live up to expectations. What we have here is a massive exception to the rule. I am listening to this album for about the twenty-fifth time and there are parts that still give me goose bumps. If I had to choose my album of the year right now, this is it. I have had the honor of hearing some great releases this year, but this one sets itself apart.
The album starts with Enter The Cipher and its very atmospheric opening. Drums kicks in and then some great raw guitar with awesome keyboard sound. Linda Toni Grahnkicks in with her vocals and her talent is immediately felt. This song really shows off her wide range of singing capabilities. I am a huge fan of Tarja, Sharon Den Adel, Charlotte Wessels, Floor Jansen and some of the other giants of this type of metal and Grahn belongs with them, she is simply that amazing vocally. We also get our first taste of an awesome melodic guitar solo that even though it is melodic, it has a feel that is a lot more edgy. Ken Kängström and Viktor Carlsson provide an awesome guitar tandem throughout the whole album. Carlsson also provides male vocals and does on this first song.
Valkryria, one of the first singles on the album comes next. This song explodes out of the gate with its massive wall of sound. Grahn’s vocals on this song are so intense it feels like her vocal chords are going to tear out. This song is so raw, but melodic at the same time. The entire album has an incredibible ability to sound very heavy while being melodic in a lot of places as well. We get a great mix of female and male vocals playing off each other. The middle part of this song is amazing.
A couple songs later is my favorite song on the album, Winterfall. I have probably listened to this song a hundred times. Grahn starts this song off with a great vocal opening. This song starts very melodic and really shows how great Grahn’s straight forward metal vocals are. The song has a great feel and is so catchy you just can’t stop listening to it. The chorus is well written and helps make the song so easy to listen to. We get another great guitar solo in this song that just keeps building through the whole solo.
As we continue our journey through the album we come to The Rising. Another song that feels like it is a massive hit. The intro feels almost futuristic and then an in your face explosion of music follows. Then we get some soft vocals from Grahn while Carlsson kicks in some seriously evil sounding vocals. The best chorus on the album is on this song. The pace in parts of this song in chaotic, and then it will mellow out for a bit and then blow you up again. This song is like four songs in one. This is another track that I have listened to over and over. This song also has some serious ass kicking guitar and more great solo work.
We have eleven songs and 45 minutes of music on Follow The Ciphers debut release. Every second of it is a treat for the ears. This ties the highest rating I have ever given an album. For a debut album to score this high, it has to be very special and this album is. I can’t recommend this album enough. Listen to the videos on YouTube and order this masterpiece, you will not be disappointed. This album has not even hit the streets yet, and I can’t wait for the second album. The future of metal is bright with new bands like this coming along. I am honored to have been able to review such an incredible release.
SCORE: 97 out of 100