Two Steps from Hell released the CD version of their twelfth public album, Unleashed in December 2017. When it comes to Epic music (Trailer music), Two Steps from Hell is the one I turn to, and every public release MUST be purchased on CD. This requires a bit of suffering on my part as the digital version usually releases months before the CD and I refuse to listen to it online until I purchase the actual disc. This would explain why my review has come so late, however, it was well worth the wait.
Two Steps from Hell initially released Unleashed in digital format on September 22nd, 2017. There are a wonderful group of vocalists who accompany the composers Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergersen which include the likes of Felicia Farerre, Merethe Soltvedt (Yes, she’s back!), C. C. White, Uyanga Bold, and Linea Adamson. The release comes with instrumental versions of the main tracks as well as uncompressed mixes and are embodied in a 3-Disc CD set.
Thomas and Nick share an equal amount of 10 songs each, and upon a first few listens, I realized that, when comparing to past Two Steps from Hell albums, Unleashed is one of the most divisive in style between the two composers. This is in contrast especially to the last two albums (Battlecry and Vanquished) where the songs truly sound like they belong to the same album. With Unleashed, The songs by Thomas are more uplifting, bouncy, and light in tone (“Impossible”,”Molto Piratissimo”), whereas Nick’s are more dark, venturous, and bold in tone (“Rune”, “Neptune and Mars”). Though the two composers sound is more divisive this time around, they still deliver the same enjoyable brave and uplifting music the two composers are known for.
I’ll start off by highlighting a portion of Thomas’ tracks. Thomas kicks off the album with quite possibly my favorite track, “Unleashed”. This is a song, with the wonderful Merethe Soltvedt returning with vocals, that is slowly uplifting and by around the 3 – 3:30 mark I succumb to chills and watery eyes. I didn’t realize how much I had missed Merethe and her angelic voice but I was immediately mesmerized, and the song is just simply beautiful. Thomas brings the wow factor with “Impossible” where he seems to do the … impossible as he, according to Thomas on his Facebook account, “combines a lot of my musical influences over the years, from SID chip music, trance, Irish jigs, bombastic orchestral, electronica etc.” Along with some more Merethe on vocal, the song is constructed in impeccable fashion. “See Me Fight” is a song that stands on its own, similar to “Dangerous” from their prior album Vanquished, with returning vocalist Linea Adamson who, with a different tone from the other vocalists, does an absolutely remarkable job and surprisingly the song has become one of my favorites on the album. I can actually imagine this on the radio as it does sound the most commercial. Wild Heart is a song with a beautiful piano intro which leads to a chorus and then Felicia Farerre, who also wrote the lyrics to this one, brings her pure and graceful vocal to the forefront and it’s just simply wonderful. I will end Thomas’ portion with the instrumentals, “Never Give up on Your Dreams” and “Secret Melody”. “Never Give up on Your Dreams” was actually a song that was left off of Thomas Bergersens brilliant solo album, Sun, and immediately one can hear how this song would have fitted in perfectly with Sun. I’m thrilled that he included it on Unleashed as it is an absolute joyous track to listen to. Lastly for Thomas’ portion, “Secret Melody” is a song I have grown to absolutely love. The melody starts with one instrument and just continues in a glorious build-up of numerous and different instruments until the drums, chants, and horns take the song to a new level. It’s an astonishing piece in which, once it ends, I’m left humming the song throughout the day.
As I stated earlier, Nick’s portion is a different beast from Thomas’ but is wonderful just the same. To highlight some of his work I will start with “Rune”, which has some alluring vocal work by Uyanga Bold. The song is dark and adventurous, with some low male chants and it sticks in my head. I absolutely love it. The other song to mention from Nick’s portion is “Oracle” which again, features vocals from Uyanga Bold, and I love how after the song builds up it breaks down to Uyanda’s pure and holy vocal. I can really see how Uyanga fits with Nick’s work. She has this beautiful lower tone that is so wholesome in sound it really suits Nick’s dark and adventurous style. “Final Days of Rome” is one of Nick’s standouts for me on the album. It’s bold and uplifting, with some strong strings and drums, and Felicia Farerre’s lovely vocal fits the song perfectly. It’s one of Nick’s finest. Nick successfully blends Uyanda’s vocal tone with Felicia Farerre’s higher tone in “Neptune and Mars” and “Descendant of the Sun”, which I really enjoy. For example, “Descendant of the Sun” is an excellent piece of work where Nick mixes a light and dark tone, with strings and keyboard, and both vocalists showcase their voices beautifully in different portions, but I really adore Felicia’s uplifting portion at the end of the song. This time around Nick has contributed his vocal to just more than one song. The one that works best for me is “Stand Alone”, which he sings as a duo with C.C. White. On his own, in this one, he does the job well, and his dual singing works better here than with the other tunes he provided vocal on in the album. In addition, the pounding drums and instruments which continue pumping through the song make it a truly enjoyable listen. It’s definitely my favorite of his vocal work on the album.
As mentioned earlier, Disc 2 contains the uncompressed tracks and Disc 3 contains the instrumental versions of the vocal tracks from Disc 1, as well as the wonderful Linea Adamson tune “See Me fight” and the Alt Choir version of “Wild Heart”, which basically removes the choir from the beginning of the song and an alternate choir joins in near the end. I’m happy to say Felicia’s beautiful vocal remains. I can’t say the instrumental versions of the vocal tracks are better than those on Disc 1, because I absolutely love the vocals, but I do have the instrumental versions on my music player as well and enjoy them just as much.
Overall Unleashed is another outstanding album from Two Steps from Hell. It may not be my absolute favorite of their releases, Battlecry holds that honor, but I rank Unleashed very high in their collection. I’m truly relieved to see that they show no signs of slowing down and I cannot wait to hear what they come up with next. If you are already a fan of Two Steps from Hell, I find it hard to believe you will not enjoy this album. If you are new to Two Steps from Hell, you will find their music uplifting and will take you on an unforgettable musical journey every time you listen.
Click here for their official site: Two Steps from Hell
Below is their track “Impossible” which features vocal from Merethe Soltvedt found on their YouTube Channel.