Published on May 9th, 2019 | by Justin G.
Leverage: DeterminUs (Frontiers, 2019)
It’s been a decade since we last saw a new album from Finnish melodic/progressive/power metal band Leverage, and that decade saw the departure of founding vocalist Pekka Heino, so there are equal parts anticipation and trepidation going into the band’s fourth album DeterminUs. Sure we got a taste of things to come with 2018’s The Devil’s Turn EP, but a full-length album is the real test, and fortunately Leverage passes with flying colors.
I was worried about how the band could possibly fill Heino’s shoes, especially since his vocals were such a huge part of the band’s appeal to me. His replacement, Kimmo Blom, proves to be a more than worthy successor. He actually sang backing vocals on Leverage’s 2006 album Tides (as well as a bunch of Stratovarius and Thunderstone albums), and he has plenty of power and expression as a frontman. It helps that these songs are very much what you’d hope to hear on a Leverage album. Not quite progressive metal, not quite power metal, and a bit more than just melodic rock, DeterminUs straddles those lines the way a good Vanden Plas or Circus Maximus album might.
DeterminUs is a really strong album from start to finish, just as it had to be for Leverage to pull off this kind of comeback. The melodies are fantastic, the songs have plenty of metal punch (even with the pristine production and delicate keyboards), and there’s a complexity and depth to the structures and the lyrics that the average melodic metal album doesn’t usually achieve. Highlights here are “Wind of Morrigan,” “Afterworld’s Disciple” and “Heaven’s No Place For Us,” but even a power ballad like “When We Were Young” has enough power to stir the heart. The quirky rocker “Rollerball” is the only song that feels out of place here. It feels more like a Brother Firetribe song, which is ironic I suppose given that’s where Heino ended up.
With DeterminUS, Leverage doesn’t give us a “it’s good, but…” kind of album. This album holds its own against the first three Leverage releases, and will hopefully usher in a new era for the band. Their return to the melodic metal scene is a very welcome development. If you enjoyed the first three Leverage albums, you’re going to enjoy DeterminUs as well. And if you’re new to the band but dig bands like Circus Maximus, Vanden Plas, Threshold and Seventh Wonder, this album makes a great introduction to a band you’re going to want to discover.
Summary: A very welcome return