October 8, 2023

There’s no doubt that Edge Of Forever have exceeded all expectations with Ritual, and it’s surely going to be up there as one of the best melodic metal releases of 2023.

In May 2021, the remains of 215 children were discovered at the site of a former school in Canada. They were some of the estimated 150,000 children that were forcibly removed by the government from indigenous communities and placed in residential schools in what today we would consider a cultural genocide. This residential school system was the inspiration for Ritual, and that won’t be a surprise for fans of Edge Of Forever since the previous two albums, Native Soul and Seminole, also had a focus on indigenous peoples.  You could even argue that the three form a loose trilogy. The three albums have been released over a relatively short four-year timespan with the same line-up of founding member, vocalist and keyboard player Alessandro Del Vecchio, guitarist Aldo Lonobile, and a rhythm section of Nik Mazzucconi on bass and Marco Di Salvia on drums. One therefore might expect them to sound similar – which they do with their mix of melodic rock and metal styles – but there’s a visible maturing of the composition skills as they moved from the uneven and slightly forgettable Native Soul to the more substantial Seminole, and finally to this release, which is easily their most consistent set of songs.   

The centrepiece of the album is the ambitious seven-part title track which comes in at a whopping twenty minutes. Just the thought of that is likely to have fans with any prog tendencies licking their lips. But before getting there we have six regular tracks which demonstrate Edge Of Forever at the top of their game, and they don’t get much better than opener Where Are You. It’s a masterclass in how to write a melodic rock anthem. The building blocks of the song are laid out immediately with a mysterious sounding picked guitar phrase followed by an earworm of a guitar riff. Strings enhance the texture before Del Vecchio’s powerful voice comes in. There’s a glorious chord change going into the chorus that is pure Bon Jovi. We get a short but searing solo from Lonobile, and the song fades out on that opening guitar phrase. Water Be My Path is equally impressive and is characterized by a bluesy guitar refrain and a wonderfully anthemic chorus where the soaring synths stand out. This track also highlights the crystal-clear production on the album which doesn’t try to blast the listener with a wall of noise but instead focuses on clarity of the individual voices. There’s also no fluff – songs are concise and never outstay their welcome. The production job was done by Del Vecchio, so he’s without doubt a man of many skills.

Within the first part of the album, Forever’s Unfolding, a good mid-paced Dio-style tune, showcases the heavier side of the group, and that’s offset by the good but perhaps slightly predictable piano-led power ballad, Love Is The Only Answer. ‘Predictable’ was also the word that came to my mind listening to The Last One but, God damn it, it’s impossible not to be singing along to that chorus by the end! The only real disappointment on the album is Freeing My Will. This one ventures into speed metal territory, but it fails to excite and melody-wise is insipid compared to some of the beautiful stuff surrounding it.

The title track isn’t the first time that the band have attempted a multi-part piece, even if it’s a different scale to the modest four-part title track on Seminole. I confess I was underwhelmed by Seminole but here Edge Of Forever match their ambition with quality material. Pt 1 opens with a meaty riff, but the main texture comes from the lush synths which along with a slightly Eastern accent bring back echoes of Rainbow’s Gates Of Babylon. It’s certainly a suitably epic way to open such an ambitious suite. The next two Parts are energetic metal songs before Pt. IV Baptized in Fire brings a complete change of atmosphere with eighty seconds of beautiful polyphonic a cappella choral voices.  I’m not sure if all the voices we hear are Del Vecchio’s, but if so it’s an impressive feat. This is followed by Ride The Wings Of Hope, a joyous rocker with large doses of organ that give it a Deep Purple feel. The track closes with a return of the opening Pt 1 riff which helps maintain the cohesion of the suite. Pt V1 is a short piece for piano and vocal with a gorgeous melody emotionally delivered by Del Vecchio. To these ears that was the perfect way to gently close the suite but there is a final short funereal lament, which might make sense within the concept but is perhaps not the most satisfying way to close the title track and the album.  Nevertheless, the title track demonstrates the band’s ability to construct a compelling large-scale piece of music.

There’s no doubt that Edge Of Forever have exceeded all expectations with Ritual, and it’s surely going to be up there as one of the best melodic metal releases of 2023. It’s an album that oozes quality, and it will appeal to lovers of stadium anthems and headbangers alike.