Realm – Endless War (1988)
Endless War is a screamer. Obviously, the vocalist aligns himself with the nascent power metal movement, resulting in a high pitched method of singing, but this also lends itself to the instrumentation, which is driven by lots of guitar pyrotechnics, and the songwriting, which is often non-linear and otherwise willing to stray from verse-chorus even though the average song isn’t very long. As a result, this album walks a line between intense, Helstar style power-thrash and a more laid back style reminiscent of progressive rock. Whether or not they succeed, Realm has earned a few fans after belly flopping for reasons I don’t remember off the top of my head in the early 1990s. Their short career not only produced this, but the more intense (if less proggy) Suiciety, and some demos that apparently take more influence from traditional heavy metal.
Due to its “power-thrash” status, Realm was a bit of an outlier during their time, not quite fitting with most of the US power metal scene, and aesthetically different from the Metallicas, Testaments, Slayers, other popular thrash of the time, even if they could often match or exceed their velocity. Mid-period Manilla Road is actually a viable comparison, although Realm uses fewer epic, mythological flourishes in their music and is often more violent. Discussion of genre aside, one reason I like Realm is that their approach to composition reminds me somewhat of my own, in that I try to minimize repetition and maximize variety of song structures, although there are otherwise massive aesthetic/technique differences.
Endless War, amongst other things, is a fairly “technical” album in that its guitar parts, at the very least, would require substantial practice to play well. This, amongst other things, includes lots of triplets, giving the album a slightly different rhythmic feel than your average power metal album of the time, as well as being an approach other bands would use in the relative future. Ironically, while there are many distinctive slower, gentler sections (due to the aforementioned prog influence), I would say the fastest, most intense parts of the album are the highest quality – they seem to be home to most of the more creative musical ideas the band had at this point. The fact that Suiciety upped the speed and reduced the amount of soft sections suggests the band felt the same way, at least for a while.
Either way, Realm has more to their name than the fact they’re from Wisconsin, and is yet another example of a band benefiting from the internet. They, along with a lot of other similar-sounding bands may have become quite popular if the sudden success of Nirvana’s power pop album Nevermind hadn’t turned a lot of American attention towards grunge. Even then, the power metal aspects of their sound might’ve became big, even Manowar big if they’d had substantial European distribution. Regardless, there’s not much point speculating about what might’ve been. After all, the Seattle scene did give us Mudhoney…
Highlights: “Eminence”, “Fate’s Wind”, “This House Is Burning”