"Back in 2008, a force in the German melodic power metal scene released an album called “Eternal Empire.” The album was met with as much disdain as I have seen critic’s muster. It seemed that after the release of epic power masterpieces “Lord of Earth and Heavens Heir” and “Defenders of the Crown,” the band had all but abandoned the foundation that built the Human Fortress. On one hand, creating a new sound to generate a bigger audience is understandable, but to hardened power metal fans it’s a sacrilege. So, after a five year hiatus, the departure of Carsten Frank (who sang and played guitar on “Eternal Empire”) and return of one the original members Volker Trost (guitarst) and vocalist Jioti Parcharidis, the band was set to regroup and attack. However, in 2010 Parcharidis left again for health reasons, leaving the band to seek a new vocalist. The search turned up one of the rising voices in metal - Brazil’s Gus Monsanto (Symbolica/Code of Silence/Ex-Adagio). With that, Human Fortress seeks to reclaim lost glory with “Raided Land.” The end result is a successful transition back to pre-2008 derailment as the the train coasts back on the track of straight melodic power metal, with the added bonus of the best production in the band’s history.
In Monsanto, the band has brought back the soaring beauty that was lost with Frank’s pseudo-harsh style vocals. His range is even more varied than with his other bands (Code of Silence and Symbolica) and there are brief moments where he is inseparable from Tommy Karevik (see “Under Seige”). It seems there is no end to the breadth of what he can sing. His style is more wide open than that of original vocalist Parcharidis, though I suspect that many fans will identify his style with the band. In a similar aspect to MasterPlan, yet on a much smaller scale, the band’s rabid fanbase will raise red flags with a new vocalist. However, the only red flag that should be raised is the one depicted on the album artwork. Monsanto is by far the best vocalist Human Fortress has ever had, and it is his range that properly propels the band to a modern audience while keeping true to its history.
With a perfect mix and fantastic sound (from Orden Ogan vocalist/guitarist Sebastian "Seeb" Levermann on the music side and vocalist extraordinaire Michael Bormann on the vocal side), Human Fortress draws elements from the first two releases with a distinct nod to the current style of Kamelot. Pure power metal fans might find that it leans more progressive and is mired in mid-paced muck and pure progressive fans will find it dips into more power than they might like. For those in the middle, “Raided Land” is the band’s finest hour. The songs are a perfect balance of power and progressive with the songs averaging a svelte 4 minutes.
With a recipe of “Silverthorn” Kamelot and “Mystery of Time” Avantasia, the band also throws some shades of Running Wild within the riffs of “Gladiator of Rome, Pt. 2,” the album’s strongest track. “Evil Curse” is the longest track – at 5:22 – and also the heaviest. I do wish that mighty riff was carried in force through the first verse, but it comes back half way in the second. However, if there was one song on the album that shows the full range that Monsanto offers, this is it. Other notables are “The Chosen One,” “Child of War” and “Wasted Years.” The one most closely related to Kamelot is “Under Seige,” which if I hadn’t known better could have easily fooled me as coming from that band.
“Raided Land” is a return to the style that started it all for Human Fortress. With Gus Monsanto, the group added the most versatile vocalist its ever had (with no disrespect to Parcharidis). The sound and production is the most pristine in the band’s history, striking a perfect mix – a testament to the mastery of both Sebastian Levermann and Michael Bormann. While I know some diehards will find the album unfulfilling as a pure power metal album, I cannot find a time in the band’s history outside of “Eternal Empire” where it sounded dramatically different, or better. “Raided Land” is one of the finest efforts from a German band with a tremendous upswing for the future." - Metal Underground