Album Review: Twins Crew – ‘Veni Vidi Vici’

Twins Crew are a really interesting band for me to talk about, because they’re a relatively new power metal band from Stockholm, Sweden. If you’re not a metal fan, you might wonder why I find them so interesting. Well, for starters, Stockholm is better known among metal fans for having a very strong death metal scene, so a power metal band from Stockholm is surprisingly not as common as you might expect, with metal-archives.com having 13 active power metal bands listed from Stockholm compared to 117 active death metal bands from the same place (although it is worth noting that some of the bands didn’t start out in Stockholm or play different music now, so, if you only count bands who started in Stockholm and still play their appropriate styles of music metal, the number goes down to 11 power metal bands to 109 death metal bands, which is still nine death metal bands for each power metal band!). However, what is more interesting for me is that the band’s two guitarists are twins AND are graduates from the Guitar Institute of Technology (an internationally regarded school for guitarists), which pretty much got my interest because it’s rare that you see twins who are highly regarded guitarists working together in a band.

Doesn’t excuse the somewhat dull band name, though.

Anyway, snide comments about the band’s name aside, Twins Crew are a band who have been around since 2007 and have previously released two EPs (2008’s Twins Crew and 2009’s Twin Demon) and two albums (2011’s Judgement Night and 2013’s The Northern Crusade). While they aren’t exactly a big name in the genre by any measure (around 3,500 likes on Facebook isn’t exactly a sign of being a big name on the international music scene), they’ve certainly received some good press in the past, having played at Sabaton Open Air (a festival run by Sabaton in their home town of Falun) and House of Metal (Sweden’s biggest indoor festival). Veni Vidi Vici is their third record and is named after a famous quote attributed to (though not necessarily said by) Julius Caesar which translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered”.

I would joke that the band are being a bit optimistic by naming their album after that phrase…but I have to say, they might have something going for them with that being the title of their album. It’s not really album of the year material to me and I do think it is flawed in ways that hamper its potential, but there’s definitely something about this album which I feel separates it from the typical power metal album and, given time to iron out the flaws which drag them down on this record, I could actually see Twins Crew being one of the new forerunners in the power metal scene.

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Let me start with the obvious comment: in terms of originality, Twins Crew don’t exactly bring much new to the table. You could probably trace most of what they’re doing back to the original European power metal bands of the 80s (so, Helloween, Gamma Ray and the like, with a dose of Manowar for good measure), with a few 90s power metal bands adding additional influence and some NWOBHM influence as well. Indeed, on paper, there’s very little that seems to make Twins Crew seem all that impressive beyond the skills of their guitarists. In practice, however, the record really shines, managing to turn what could easily have been dismissed as a cliche laden affair into a surprisingly fun listen. Every chorus is pretty enjoyable (even the title track, which seems like the sort of thing you’d expect to crash and burn as a chorus, manages to capture the triumph and grandness one would expect from that title while still being very easy to sing along to!), the variety of tempos on the record stops it from blending together (some songs, like ‘Sky is Falling’ and ‘Show No Mercy’, can reach some pretty impressive speeds while others, like the title track and ‘Burn the Witch’, show that the band can do slow and heavy material very well) and every song has some really interesting moments which make them worth hearing a few times. Indeed, none of the songs really left me feeling that disappointed once they’d grown on me, which really shows how solid this record is!

The performances of the musicians are also fairly good. The bass guitar is the only real disappointment, not really doing much of any real note, but the guitars are pretty great (which is to be expected) and the drumming is pretty solid across the board. The keyboards are a bit unimpressive, but I think the big problem is really that they aren’t given a proper opportunity to shine: they mostly serve to add backing to the songs rather than doing much that really commands your attention, so it’s easy to tune them out. Maybe some better integration of them to the band’s sound would help to improve this, as I think they could do with being given a bit more to do than just providing an atmosphere for most of the album.

The vocals by Andreas Larsson are a bit odd for me to comment upon, as they aren’t necessarily bad, but I can’t say I really like them either. The guy has a fairly wide vocal range, a style which is a good fusion between the rougher style of Kai Hansen and the operatic style of Michael Kiske (with a few occasions where I couldn’t help wondering whether Larsson has actually studied opera due to his surprisingly good imitation of the vocal style for it, most noticeable in the higher parts of the chorus of ‘Veni Vidi Vivi’) and there’s nothing he does that’s really bad, but I can’t escape the feeling that his voice needs a bit of refinement to reach the heights that he is capable of, as his vocal tone sits poorly with me for some reason (which is, admittedly, an odd comment for me to make, as his voice doesn’t break too far from power metal conventions, but it bugs me and I can’t place why). That said, the guy has a truckload of enthusiasm and I can’t say that I’d particularly want his voice to change much beyond MAYBE given a tiny bit of polish due to him sometimes seeming like he’s having issues hitting some notes properly, so put this one down to nitpicking if you want to.

The production is where I really have to say that the big problems springs up for me. The problems are pretty much in the mixing and mastering stages, and both of them badly hamper the record for me. The mixing doesn’t really do the bass justice, which isn’t a huge issue for me due to how little of real note it does, but I have to say that there are occasions where I feel that Larsson’s vocals also suffer negatively from the mixing, as he sometimes goes quieter in the mix than is clearly intended and can become difficult to understand as a result due to the guitars, keyboards and drums (which are otherwise mixed fine) overwhelming him. The mastering isn’t QUITE as big an issue, but I feel something about it is off and results in a record that feels deceptively quieter than it should be while still having a mastering job that somehow still feels too loud. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was one or the other (…well, OK, I would, but at least I’d be able to appreciate what is being done if it was one or the other and give a more confident explanation of what could be done to improve it!), but, when I compare this record to similar stuff, it feels quite odd to my ears, because I’m left unsure whether the problem is that the instruments have been recorded too quietly and the mastering is trying to compensate for that or the whole record has been mastered without the instruments getting beefed up to suit the sound properly. It’s hard for me to place what exactly is wrong with the production, but it’s times like this where I just feel that the production is what lets the record down.

Still, overall, there’s a lot to like about Veni Vidi Vici. I really think that, if the band can find a way to present their own unique voice better through their music (there’s nothing wrong with playing the way they are, though, so this would be a bonus more than anything else if they do it), get a better quality sound for their future records, better integrate the keyboards in their sound and encourage Larsson to polish his voice a bit more, they could very well go on for amazing things. As it stands, I think the production is the only thing that knocks this back from being a truly great record to merely a very good one. I think that there is a better record in Twins Crew that, given time to sort out the issues I’ve highlighted, could very easily materialise, but what they’ve put out on this record is still worth checking out if you like power metal. It’s not flawless and I think the band have the potential to do better…but it’s still good power metal, and, at the end of the day, that’s all it needs to be.

Veni Vidi Vici will be released on the 26th of February by Beyond The Storm Productions. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.

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