The six Germans in Human Fortress wear ruffled shirts, goofy capes and fancy jackets. They sing songs with such titles as "The Dragon's Lair," "Under Black Age Toil" and "Divine Astronomy." They also use choirs and mix classical elements with heavy power metal just as seamlessly as Rhapsody, but with a lot less pomp and circumstance. Despite its title, Lord of Earth and Heavens Heir is a refreshing and dramatic slab of metal that never loses control of itself. In fact, singer Jioti Parcharidis and his comrades sound so confident and independent that it's hard to believe Lord of Earth and Heavens Heir is their debut album.
From "The Dragon's Lair" (a melodic speed-metal track with soaring background vocals), to the cleverly orchestrated title track, to the elegant beauty of "Forgive & Forget" (the album's only true ballad), to "Little Flame" (the epic closer), Human Fortress demonstrate the expanse of their repertoire by playing flawless and textured metal that avoids getting bogged down by its somewhat stereotypical lyrical content.
Comparing Parcharidis' voice to other vocalists is futile; his limited-range delivery is subtle yet distinct, adding considerable character to songs already laced with intricate layers and stunning choruses. Torsten Wolf (lead guitar), Volker Trost (rhythm guitar), Dirk Marquardt (keyboards), Pablo Tammen (bass) and Laki Zaios (drums) round out the sextet and complement each other perfectly. Sure, there are a few duds on Lord of Earth and Heavens Heir – "Damned to Bedlam" sounds a bit too much like some of the album's other tracks, and "Light Beyond the Horizon" doesn't really go anywhere – but these are minor quibbles about a record that could catch many listeners by surprise.