Album Review: Rizon – ‘Power Plant’

Rizon is a Swiss power metal band which I imagine most people aren’t going to be familiar with. Forming in 1997 and releasing their first album (titled Evolution, if you’re curious) independently in 2005, the band have since gone on to release two further albums, 2008’s Sudden Death and 2012’s Masquerade. Since 2012, the band have had four members leave (two bassists, a female vocalist and a guitarist, three of them in 2014 alone!), which puts Power Plant (not to be mistaken for Gamma Ray’s album of the same name from 1999) in a very interesting position, as it’s their first album with a new female vocalist, guitarist and bassist (which isn’t actually as big a loss as you might expect on paper: the band has a male vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist and drummer who have been in the band from the start) and their first album for their new label, Pure Rock Records.

Needless to say, these are not exactly easy things for Rizon fans to overlook…but I’m not a Rizon fan (heck, I’d never even heard of them before the promo for this album arrived!), so I’m going to have to approach this as a first impression on the band rather than a long time fan of the band.

So, with that in mind…I like this record! It’s not a perfect record, I’ll admit, but the final result still works out to be something I can’t help enjoying!

Cover RIZON-Power Plant

Let’s get the negatives out of the way: I feel that the band underuses their new female vocalist, Rahel Fischer, a bit on this record. She does have songs where she takes up the lead (‘I Follow You’ is probably the most noticeable example), but she mostly serves as a backup and occasional counterpoint lead vocalist to Matthias Gotz, the band’s male vocalist. Considering I’ve heard the dual male/female vocalist thing done to a greater extent by Amaranthe (who have to balance a male vocalist, a male death metal screamer and a female vocalist), I can’t help feeling that I’ve heard this sort of thing done better in the past. That said, I will stress that the record DOES give Fischer opportunities to shine on her own (and, while I don’t think her voice is quite as impressive as it should have been for this type of music, as she doesn’t really go out with her voice like a lot of metal vocalists do, she definitely has talent!), so this is more a nitpick than a serious flaw with the record. I also feel the record could have used the keyboards a bit better, as they don’t really add much on most of the songs. They don’t detract from the experience at all, but, considering they’re surprisingly prominent across the record, I can’t help thinking that they should have had more on display more than they did.

Beyond that, I have to say that I don’t really have any issues with this record! Seriously, beyond a few songwriting stumbles (which I’ll get into shortly, since there’s more positives to talk about than negatives there), that’s about the extent of my complaints about the record!

The songwriting is mostly pretty solid. I think there are songs which feel like they’re lacking something to reach the heights they needed to (‘Lost Without You’ isn’t exactly a bad ballad, but I feel like it lacks something to propel it to the heights that it should do and I think ‘Nevermore’ JUST failed to work properly as an opener, despite being a decent song), but the general songwriting is very strong overall, with no songs which I really felt were less than enjoyable. There’s nothing especially original about this album (I find myself reminded of Ecliptica by Sonata Arctica quite a fair bit), which might be a problem for those who don’t like power metal or wanting something new from the genre, but, considering Sonata Arctica aren’t likely to return to the sound of Ecliptica any time soon (re-recording the album doesn’t count!), I’m more than happy to hear something which reminds me of that album.

The band performances aren’t exactly going to make Dream Theater break out into a nervous sweat, but they’re certainly respectable enough by power metal standards. I’ve already mentioned Rahel Fischer’s vocals and Marco Kuderli’s keyboards, but the rest of the band still do good jobs as well. In particular, I have to highlight lead vocalist Matthias Gotz’ voice, who has a powerful voice that, surprisingly, avoids falling into the Michael Kiske worship of a lot of power metal vocalists. His voice is closer to a high baritone/low tenor that anything else, reminding me a bit of what I’d picture a cleaner voice Andi Deris to sound like. Beyond that…well, the bass is good, the guitars are good and the drumming is good, but there’s not a huge amount to single out about them, if I’m honest.

The production is also fairly solid. I think the mastering is decent enough, the mixing is fine (although I would have liked a bit more bass and keyboard presence myself) and the recording itself sounds fine. Not a lot to say on that really, just some good jobs all around!

Overall, this is pretty much a gem of modern power metal, if I’m being completely honest, and truly worth a listen if you’re into European power metal. It’s not genre defining, but it’s great power metal by a band who truly deserves to be larger than they are.

Power Plant will be released on the 4th of March by Pure Rock Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.