Review: Dire Peril – The Extraterrestrial Compendium
By Todd Naevestad
There’s something to be said about specialization. If you’re good at something, it’s great to stick with that. But when that’s all you do or try, that’s when things feel stale. It’s a fine balance. What we’re looking at now is the debut of Dire Peril, the collaboration between Helion Prime’s Jason Ashcroft and Judicator’s John Yelland. Both are distinct voices in their space; how they work together is a whole new question.
Both Ashcroft and Yelland are known for their powerful world-building through their lyrics. From ancient history to far-flung galaxies, both create unique environments for their music to be a part of. The Extraterrestrial Compendium holds true to that pedigree, feeling like a jaunt through the stars and visiting wild and far out worlds. It helps a little bit that much of the album is inspired by a number of popular Sci-Fi properties like Predator, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers. But they make them their own. I wouldn’t have guessed at the inspiration if I hadn’t read their press release. Pair all that good space nonsense with some impressive guitar solos and you’re going in the right direction. Including Arjen Anthony and Brittany Slays as guest vocals is a nice addition. I’m in for any album that puts Brittany in her proper place as matriarch of the universe. There seems to be all the makings of an impressive album here.
The fact stands, however, that there is nothing memorable about the album as a whole. The work carries with it the problems that I’ve seen with both bands and their prior outings. One thing that is immediately noticeable is how forced the lyrics are to fit into the measures. Too many words are trying to be fit into too small a musical phrase and it just feels rushed and cramped. There is little flow to the lyrics, keeping me out of that musical zen. Neither man’s voice helps to carry the lyrics either. They’re similar enough that I wasn’t always able to pick out when one was singing over the other. Instead of being interesting harmonies or counterpoints, it just created confusion. This is especially a shame as individually, they have good sounds and their voices typically add a sense of uniqueness. This all fed into a constant cycle of sameness that the album could never break free from. That sameness is doubly reinforced by the instrumentation. While the talent is there and the solos respectable in their complexity, they’ve got no soul. It is less like they were added to improve the tracks and more like a checkbox item. Metal needs solos so here are some. In that same vein, for an epic Sci-Fi project, they didn’t do to much with that idea musically. I wanted to hear some ambient computer/tech sounds or some electronic or synth supporting work, but there really wasn’t. It lacks personality. To leave all the potential that was there on the floor is a shame.
Look, Helion Prime also released Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster this year and I think that is a better listen. While I have some of the same issues with that album, it felt like it had more heart. There may be more to the story of Ashcroft and Yelland’s collaboration than I’m aware of, but it doesn’t come through in the final product. While both are talented, this wasn’t the album to showcase how well they can work together. At best it’s an inoffensive bit of power metal, and at worst, a bland mashup that is less than the sum of its parts. You won’t be missing much if you pass on this.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Recommendations: Unleash the Archers, Dragony, Helion Prime