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You may be unfamiliar with Almanac the band but you might recognise the name of the band's founder member, one Victor Smolski. Smolski was born in Belarus and from 1999 – 2015 he was a member of the hugely successful German heavy metal band Rage.

During his time in Rage, Smolski appeared on the 'Welcome To The Other Side' album, writing a majority of it as well as handling production duties. He appeared on another six Rage releases over the years including 'Unity' (2002), 'Speak Of The Dead' (2006) and 2012s '21' before problems arose. Citing "musical and personal changes"” within the band, he subsequently left.

Following his departure from Rage Smolski was far from idle, linking up with vocalist Jeanette Marchewka to form a new symphonic metal band we now know as Almanac. The band features not only Marchewka on vocals but also David Readman (Pink Cream 69, Voodoo Circle) and Andy Franck (Brainstorm) sharing vocals duties, whilst the rest of the band are filled out with the usual drums, keyboards and bass guitar provided by Michael Kolar, Enric Garcia and Armin Alic respectively.

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'Tsar' is not only the band's debut album, but a powerful signal of intent regarding musical quality and direction, and if you're a fan of power metal bands, then they should certainly be on your radar. Taking the more traditional elements of Power Metal, the band merge these with classical and world music to create a modern and unique sound.

The album's title gives away the lyrical influences which deal with wars, intrigue, conquest, terror, power and love all set against the background of Russia from the warlike nomadic horsemen in the Russia savannas and grasslands, to the Tsardom, the warlike Cossacks, the siege of Constantinople, the Mongol invasion and even Ivan the Terrible. All these stories are backed up by the different vocals talents of Marchewka, Franck and Readman giving the album a splendidly unique sound.

If you take the opening track, 'Tzar', for example, it's a truly epic start as the three voices merge together seamlessly whilst Kolar holds down the solid drum beat at the back. In the middle of all this is the guitar riff, courtesy of Smolski, which is backed up by the orchestrations, but not to a point where any one instrument overpowers the others before Smolski follows up with a spectacular guitar solo just adds an extra something to the track.


This is followed up by 'Self Blinded Eyes' which features a soft fade up to the orchestral splendour before the drums and guitar kick in and the tempo accelerates rapidly whilst the chorus is a wall of sound with Marchewka coming across particularly well.

For 'Darkness' there's an atmospheric guitar intro with the addition of some keyboards in what is something of a slow burner but let me tell you, it's well worth the wait! Smolski doesn't spare anything on his early solo before the track majestically raises the volume in what becomes more of an intro to 'Hands Are Tied' which is back to the full pace intro from the drums and guitar of Kolar and Smolski respectively before the tempo showed ever so slightly as the vocals come in. The guitar riff drives the song on but vocalists still manage a passionate performance and then there's the catchy chorus sticks in your brain well after the sings ended - a sure-fire highlight of the album for me.

With 'No More Shadows' the sound like pan pipes kick off another atmospheric intro but it soon becomes chanting from Marchewka before the pan pipes return to the fore as the main vocal section comes in. It's another slow burner but the guitar stabs from Smolski give an inkling of what's to come as once again the shared vocals burst through in this mid paced number.

'Nevermore' has a guitar driven intro and the song turn or to be a showcase for Smolski as he battles against the orchestration as it seems to push his skills to the limits. It's an extraordinary display and it's an incredible sound making this another high point of the album for me. 'Reign Of Madness' on the other hand has the acoustic guitars out in force whilst Marchewka is afforded her moment in the spotlight. It's a great performance from her, and long overdue too, but it's definitely with the wait. The electric guitar solo from Smolski is very much in the background, ensuring it's the voice that firmly remains the centre of attention.

Overall it's a very good album with the orchestrations there but they're kept in the background letting the other instruments and voices lead the way. Does the band need three vocalists? I'm not sure to be honest, but for me, there's no doubt that it's Marchewka who's the shining star here.

You can see the official video for 'Self Blinded Eyes' here:

You can see Almanac live here:
Saturday 15th May – Z7, Pratteln
Wednesday 1st June – Kosice Amphitheatre, Kosice
Friday 3rd June – Metalfest Open Air, Lochotin Cirque, Pilzen
Wednesday 17th August – Summer Breeze, Flugplatz, Dinkelsbühl
Saturday 17th December – Knock Out Festival, Schwarzwaldhalle, Karlsruhe

'Tzar' Track Listing:
Self Blinded Eyes
Hands Are Tied
Children Of The Future
No More Shadows
Reign Of Madness
Flames Of Fate

Almanac are:
Andy Franck – Vocals
David Readman – Vocals
Jeannette Marchewka – Vocals
Victor Smolski – Guitar/Keyboards
Armin Alic – Bass Guitar
Enric Garcia – Keyboards
Michael Kolar – Drums

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