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Athorn is the latest band helmed by former Serpent Moves, Human Fortress, and Galloglass singer Carsten Frank, and, markedly, it's also the most mainstream-leaning of the bunch, swapping most all of the power metal tendencies that characterized its predecessors for a largely traditional heavy metal/hard rock style. If anything, the most extreme sound on hand tends to be Frank's frequently gargled-glass vocals, which he alternates with his better-known muscular tunefulness to great effect on "Emperor of Ruins," "Humanize the Demon," and "After the End." The partly balladic title track is also particularly memorable, as it gradually rises in energy and power, and the album's lone epic, "Schizophrenia," helps break up the prevailing midtempos and formulaic song structures maintained throughout. Yet, ironically, the disc's biggest standout may be the all-instrumental "Phobia: Prologue," which boasts a guitar tapestry of sublime majesty as it leads into the also excellent title track. In sum, Athorn's first full-length walks a fine line between predictability and consistency that will likely polarize opinions, but provides a very respectable start to the group's career nevertheless.

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