Album Review: InnerWish – ‘InnerWish’

It feels really funny to be talking about InnerWish for me. See, the first time I’d even heard of the band was because I received a promo copy of Diviner’s debut Fallen Empires in December last year and loved it (I never got around to doing a full review of it, although my end of year article did include a brief review of it as part of my “end of year summing up” thing), so I did a bit of research and the name InnerWish popped up in relation to three of the members of Diviner (for those not in the know, Diviner are basically the ex-founding vocalist, founding guitarist and current drummer of InnerWish working together, alongside a guitarist and bassist who have nothing to do with InnerWish). I didn’t get around to picking up anything by them, but I was interested enough in them that I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed that they hadn’t released anything since 2010, as I assumed that Diviner meant that InnerWish would probably not be making a return of any sort for a while. After all, I assumed that Diviner would be touring for their record and doing promotional stuff for it, which would make it unlikely that InnerWish would be doing anything until at least late 2016, as having to split your activities between two different bands is difficult enough at the best of times, let alone when you’re still in the middle of doing stuff for the other one!

Clearly, I was wrong and Thimios Krikos and Fragiskos Samoilis (the earlier mentioned guitarist and drummer of InnerWish and Diviner) are better at balancing schedules than I thought was possible. Either that or Diviner are purely a studio only project and I missed the memo on that one…

Anyway, to fill everyone in on the details of the band, InnerWish formed in Athens in 1995 and released their first record, Waiting for the Dawn, in 1998 (their only record with Diviner’s vocalist, if you’re wondering). Their next three records, 2004’s Silent Faces, 2006’s Inner Strength and 2010’s No Turning Back, had vocalist Babis Alexandropoulos on them, but this album is their first with George Eikosipentakis on vocals and first with Samoilis on drums. The rest of InnerWish’s lineup has been fairly consistent since the 2000s started, with the only real change being keyboardist Georgios Georgiou joining the band in time to record No Turning Back (I can’t find when exactly he joined the band). The rest of the band’s lineup are guitarist Manolis Tsigos (who has also been with the band since its founding) and bassist Antonis Mazarakis (who joined the band in 1999, replacing Alexis Levenderis).

So, now we’re all caught up, what do I think of InnerWish? Well…I can’t say it’s the best record I’ve covered: it is not bringing anything new to the table and I think the band could have done with trimming the length of the record down a bit. However, I can’t call it a bad record either. There definitely is a potentially excellent record in here, but the runtime drags it down to a merely good record for me.

IWcover

The band’s sound is best summed up as a fusion of heavy metal and power metal. The songs are built upon heavy guitar riffing (although the riffing is more akin to modern day traditional heavy metal than Dio-era Black Sabbath, so there’s nothing like ‘Walk Away’ on here!), but doesn’t necessarily reach the speed associated with power metal, and strong melodic vocals which still have enough grit to them to avoid falling into the stereotypical power metal sound too heavily. It’s not really anything that unique in the grand scheme of things, I’ll admit, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it manages to hit upon the sort of sound that a lot of metal fans happen to really like (or, at least, respect) and, despite the genre the band are playing sounding fairly narrow on paper, they do a surprisingly large amount within that sound (‘Broken’ is definitely pushing more towards the power metal side of things, ‘Machines of Fear’ feels like it could have been released by a traditional heavy metal band without too much difficulty, ‘Cross the Line’ is an acoustic ballad and there are some symphonic elements to ‘Rain of a Thousand Years’ and ‘Tame the Seven Seas’), which leads me to believe that the band are at least doing their own thing within the confines of the sound their music falls under.

Unfortunately, I have to dial back the praise here and say that, despite the variety, the band’s songwriting is still hampered a bit. The main problem for me is that the album’s runtime is just too long for the band to sustain the album with. At almost 68 minutes long, it can become a bit of a slog to get through the record and the variety on display on the album, while still decent, just isn’t enough to avoid the album dragging quite noticeably after a while. Now, admittedly, I can see why the band might have wanted to put out an album of this length, considering they hadn’t released anything in almost six years, but I can’t help thinking that the runtime is what really hurts this record. The material itself isn’t bad (I will say that I really enjoy ‘Sins of the Past’, album opener ‘Roll the Dice’ and ‘Machines of Fear’ and would certainly regard them as among the best tracks on here!) and the band do have a knack for writing strong choruses and backing it up with solid guitar work, but there’s just too much of it to enjoy in one sitting! I will give the band credit in that I can’t say that there’s any songs I would particularly want to cut from the record, but a problem is still a problem, at the end of the day.

The performances on the record are fairly decent overall. You can definitely tell that the guys know how to play their instruments with confidence and want to make great metal music without going too far down the progressive route, as, while the performances aren’t going to earn the members comparisons to Dream Theater, they are solid performances overall. The guitar riffing isn’t especially doing anything different from what you might expect from this genre of metal, which does occasionally make the album feel a tiny bit samey when songs have moments which start out sounding a bit similar to each other, but there’s still a variety of speeds across the record which shows that the guitarists aren’t one trick ponies. The drumming is, again, nothing unusual, but still decent overall, with ‘Broken’ showing that Samoilis could potentially play thrash metal if he wanted to! The bass, unfortunately, doesn’t really do anything of note, basically following the root note of the guitars in the vast majority of case.

Eikosipentakis’ vocals give away that the guy is influenced by Dio (there’s quite a few inflections to his voice which are very similar to those Dio used to do), but his voice isn’t quite as high as Dio’s was and doesn’t have the same power Dio’s did. He does break from the resemblance a bit with some occasional falsetto notes which are reminiscent of Tobias Sammet, but it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to say that the guy is from the Dio school of singing, albeit with a somewhat thrash-influenced vibe to his style that gives his voice a rougher edge. Honestly, I can’t fault Eikosipentakis’ voice too much, but, as someone who loved Diviner, I can’t help thinking that the fact Eikosipentakis and Diviner’s vocalist are singing in similar styles means that they could have potentially got him back without too much difficulty. There’s possibly a bunch of valid reasons why that didn’t happen, admittedly, but, as an outsider with no knowledge of what’s happening inside the band and with the members when not in the band, it feels like a decision which would have made sense.

The production is honestly pretty good in most aspects! The mixing is pretty good (could have done with a tiny bit more bass, but it’s not too difficult to make out once you recognise what you’re looking for, so it’s more a nitpick for me than a major complaint this time), the mastering is fairly good (still a tiny bit louder than I would personally be aiming for, but it’s mostly fine the way it is) and the instruments sound fine. The only real issue I have is that the sound feels weird on the album. Admittedly, this could be my speakers, but the general vibe I got is that something about the sound of the album feels a bit off, like the album was recorded with something muting the sound a bit. It’s not a huge problem and I got used to it fairly quickly, but it is something that I feel I should point out, as it’s still an issue. However, that’s genuinely my only complaint about the production! Everyone involved in the production aspect of this album really deserves praise, because they have done a truly excellent job!

So, ultimately, my only real complaint with InnerWish is that I feel the band could have trimmed down the record to make it a stronger album as a whole. It’s not a bad record, though, and I can’t help thinking that this could well be one of my honorable mentions of the year, as it does just about everything right aside from the album length. I’d certainly recommend this record to fans of traditional heavy metal and power metal, because there’s a lot to like about this record!

InnerWish will be released on the 18th of March by Ulterium Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.