Dire Peril’s first full-length album The Extraterrestrial Compendium may be a collaboration between Helion Prime guitarist Jason Ashcraft and Judicator vocalist John Yelland, but it isn’t a mere sum of their parts. Ashcraft’s riffs and writing for this project are more aggressive, and Yelland’s vocals don’t have as much of his usual grandiose vocal layering. Comparisons could be made to Demons & Wizards’ similar dynamic, but the muscular performances and dark tone are more comparable to groups like Iced Earth, Star One, and Iron Savior.
And with the experience of multiple EPs and singles under their belt, everything about this album oozes confidence and professionalism. The production is clean and polished without going overboard, and the musicianship is tight without the need for technical wankery. It’s also nice to see Ashcraft’s penchant for sci-fi themes displayed in a way that is decidedly more serious than his main band while still allowing for a sense of fun.
The songwriting allows for a variety of moods, even if most of the songs tend to be on the speedy side. “Planet Preservation” and “Total Recall” exhibit more of the band’s thrashier side while “The Visitor” takes on a more melodic sound without turning into a total ballad. “Queen of the Galaxy” may be the album’s biggest standout, as its upbeat hooks are strengthened by Unleash the Archers vocalist Brittney Hayes reprising her role from the 2014 EP of the same name.
But with all this awesome stuff going on, The Extraterrestrial Compendium can feel a little overstuffed at times. Such a feeling is likely inevitable with twelve tracks strewn over a sixty-five-minute runtime, but the last four tracks feel somewhat redundant when “Blood in the Ice” would’ve made such a climactic closer. Thankfully none of them are bad tracks; “Always Right Here” has a solid buildup, and it’s neat to hear prog mastermind Arjen Lucassen on the closing “Journey Beyond the Stars.”
Overall, Dire Peril’s first full-length album is an excellent display of American power metal. Its style is more aggressive and darker than Judicator or Helion Prime, but it isn’t afraid to make room for the hooky writing or grand concepts seen in both. The somewhat bloated length keeps it from classic status, but I can easily see it getting even stronger with time. Strongly recommended to those who seek more balls in their power metal.
“Queen of the Galaxy”
“Blood in the Ice”