Russian power/thrashers Distant Sun are back with their sophomore album and there hasn’t even been a year break in between. These gentlemen certainly work quick, and although quick, it is definitely the kind of approach that you want from an act of this nature. I’m definitely reminded of bands like Metallica, Testament, Megadeth, Iced Earth and Jag Panzer. Without warning, the record heats up into a fiery flurry of hard-hitting riffs, bright melodies and pounding drum excursions. It is very much the kind of record that you’d expect an act responsible for one of my favorite Russian metal albums (2015’s Dark Matter) to create, though I will admit that there’s a bit more thrash here than on the band’s debut. It’s not a complaint, but it’s definitely a slightly different vibe than the last one, which had more melodies and catchier chorus lines (at least in my opinion). In the same respect, it also took longer to grow on me. I listened to this album once, came back to it again a few weeks later and am now listening to it once again during this review. Once again, thrashers will not find a problem with any of Alexey Markov’s compositions, nor his somewhat near-emulation of Metallica frontman James Hetfield, which sounds surprisingly clearer than ever before. That seems to be because the band have a bit more change in their purse, and the record was better mastered than the last one (despite how much I loved it.)
Speaking of Metallica emulation, “Andromeda” gives us a hefty hump of Load/Reload (listen to those damn opening leads, folks) and we could even say Symphony Of Destruction-era Megadeth. Both of these records were fiercely groove-heavy, and a very interesting way to begin an instrumental that works it’s way through several different melody nodes. Needless to say, “Andromeda” is the band’s first lengthy instrumental cut, and it delivers regardless of the unexpected way that it starts. It also shows Markov’s shredding power, which we can never get enough of. I know that he tried the Starsoup thing and it might not have panned out so well among metalheads to perform radio rock tunes (even though I actually liked the album, go figure – there’s a 33% on Metal Archives for it, along with a guy who said he’d rather have a sandwich) and prog numbers, but at least with Distant Sun; the band are going into the level of success that might even see them as Russia’s Metallica or Megadeth. That’s certainly not a bad thing, as these guys deserve it. They should be playing massive sold-out shows throughout that continent and I’d hope that they are. They deserve European festival slots and the whole nine-yards, really. I’d just have to see how well these guys can pull these cuts off on the stage.
With hard-hitting cuts like “God Emperor” (does that have anything to do with our orange?) and “Throne Of Iron” you can easily see why there’s such a staying power here. Sure, these riff compositions aren’t exactly new, but they strike where it’s most effective and showcase the effectiveness of this act beyond words. Markov was brilliant in Shadow Host and with former Shadow Host bass/rhythm guitarist Artem Molodtsov in tow, we might as well consider Into The Nebula a new Shadow Host album. Regardless of the fact that said act is still together, this record still has that same vibe and enough Game Of Thrones themed cuts to suit your fancy. It’s less technical than a lot of power/metal and doesn’t feature so much cheese to the point where the thrash has been entirely muted. There are some sections that remind me of Blind Guardian, (The Battle That Never Ends, The Tharks) but seeing as Blind Guardian haven’t sounded like that in about fifteen years, it’s a good thing that Distant Sun are carrying that style forward to another generation. It works for them too. (Coughs) Just to be fair, this style doesn’t really creep in until after “Andromeda” which feels a bit weird. Is this a combination of an EP and what was going to be a Game Of Thrones concept album? We may never know, but regardless of how this record was forged, the performance speaks for itself.
I do have a few questions though, as I’m mainly wondering why the record is called Into The Nebula when there are several songs related to fantasy topics, rather than the science-fiction related material of the last album. The album art also, while cool – doesn’t really fit some of the topics here. This is always kind of an issue with me, albeit more of a personal one. There are about four or five songs related directly to the Game Of Thrones mythos here and they don’t necessarily reflect the title of the piece. Noting that, not everything on this album IS about Game Of Thrones, so I suppose that I can let this dreadfully minute transgression slip by. In spite of all this, Into The Nebula is still a very strong and recommended release despite the fact that parts of me still rather enjoy (and has on my personal playlist) a slew of tracks from the debut just a bit more. Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction and I certainly would not shy away listeners from giving it a go.
(9 Tracks, 48:00)