SIGNUM REGIS: Exodus (2022)

Exodus was originally released in 2013 on Ulterium Records to great acclaim. Signum Regis had released their first two albums to some international success, but with the departure of singer Göran Edman, the band was unsure how to proceed with their third album. Band founder/bassist/keyboardist Ronnie König had written a trilogy of songs based on the Biblical accounts in the book of Exodus, but as is detailed in the 20-page booklet (with liner notes/band history) which accompanies this lush 2022 reissue, Emil Westerdahl suggested the band write an entire concept album based on Exodus with each song featuring a different singer. And thus was born Exodus!

Filip Koluš (guitars) and Jaro Jančula (drums), who are both still a vital part of Signum Regis, performed on the original release, along with a few other musicians, the most significant of these Jan Tupy who would stay on to become the band’s keyboardist and singer Mayo Petranin who would stay on with the band for the next 3 full-length releases and the Through the Storm EP. In addition to Petranin (who sings on “Mountain of God”) eight other singers were featured on Exodus. (see below for details)

Exodus 2022 – Reissue/Remix/Remaster

This reissue is more than just a reissue as all the tracks have been both remixed and remastered by Jacob Hansen, with new arrangements to several songs and backing vocals added to two tracks by current Signum Regis vocalist Jota Fortinho. As a result, the track durations are all slightly different from the original as is the song order, with “Sole Survivor” now following “Mountain of God.” And the bonus track for this reissue “Enslaved” features newly recorded vocals by Fortinho.

Furthermore, the physical product has been expanded as well to a lush 3-panel digipak with the expanded booklet. The 2013 release featured a black label disc housed in a jewel case with 12-page booklet, whereas the 2022 features a new CD label (cover art) and a 20-page booklet with extensive liner notes (commentary on all the individual tracks, band history and facts about the reissue) by Ronnie König, credits, and complete lyrics. One fact about the 2013 issue was that the lyrics to “Mountain of God” were not included, but are now included on the 2022 version. Otherwise, the layout and artwork in the lyrics section matches the original.

Exodus 2022 – The Sound

According to the liner notes (and I’ve also confirmed with Emil Westerdahl) these tracks have been remixed (by Jacob Hansen) from the original recording sessions, which means they aren’t just remastered to a louder volume. This is fantastic because even on first listen I was caught up in how “full” these songs sound now. The most significant improvement is the guitar tones, which are now up front in the mix lending a much beefier, metal vibe to the music.

Second, the low-end bass drum punch is more audible and the EQ across the spectrum more balanced. This means you can really crank this up without listener fatigue, but the bass is still plenty audible when listening at lower volumes. The vocals similarly benefit from the remix as each singer’s distinctive qualities and strengths are now better appreciated and distinguished song to song.

The overall effect of these changes is likely a realization of the sound the band would have loved to put forth when Exodus was originally released. Short of re-recording everything (which would not only have been expensive and time-consuming but might have risked unraveling the magic of the original music) this remix/remaster does the trick in simultaneously capturing the beauty, power and essence of the original and releasing it with an invigorated light into a dark world with its timeless message of deliverance!

[This would be my next vote for an Ulterium Records vinyl release/reissue]

For those who haven’t heard Exodus … and for those who have forgotten…

Exodus – The Music

Exodus, while easily categorized as a melodic, power metal concept album, is beautifully crafted from start to finish with elements of symphonic and progressive metal gently injected. The flow of music throughout its 50-minute course is fluid and dynamic, with little repetition or listener fatigue. The instrumental “On the Nile” opens the album in serene, almost hypnotic fashion as it sets the stage for the saga. Written by Filip Koluš, the acoustic guitar driven intro features drummer Jaro on the flute (in multi-instrumentalist fashion) and the choral elements impart a somber yet cinematic color to the musical journey which follows.

“Enslaved,” the first vocal/lyric track, features the voice of Thomas Winkler (Gloryhammer) as he outlines the predicament of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. The song – now featured as part of the band’s live set – is a melodic, power metal gem with fast tempo, double bass triplets and melodic hooks in the chorus. Think Stratovarius! Backing vocals were added by Jota Fortinho on this 2022 version, but Winkler’s vocal, yet gritty, clarity soars on the remix and the guitars punch through now with more “metal” conviction.

The opening symphonic segment of “The Promised Land” was programmed/performed on keyboards by Ivo Hofmann, but after 45 seconds the song quickly progresses into another fast-tempo number as Mike Vescera (Yngwie Malmsteen) assumes the vocal controls as the Lord commissions Moses with the task of leading his people out of slavery and into the land “where milk and honey flow.” Again, the guitars come to the forefront, lending a much heavier tonality to the whole song.

Eli Prinsen (The Sacrificed/Sacred Warrior/Aldaria) is featured on “Let Us Go!” The deeper tenor in his voice, along with the frenetic drumming and guitar riffing on this song, conveys the urgency in the lyrics.

“Better you not/Ignore our words/For you don’t want to learn/Lessons I give you with my rod”

I’ve always loved the pace and aggression on this one along with the killer guitar solo.

The song also perfectly complements the even more intense response from Pharoah on the subsequent “Wrath of Pharoah” which features a killer vocal performance by Samuel Nyman. The cinematic “door-pounding” effects set the stage for the thrash-y lashing which follows as Pharoah seeks to have all the Hebrew sons executed. This is one of the most dynamic songs on the album as there is this back-and-forth tension between the speedy verses and that bouncy chorus section. Think Metallica meets Testament musically yet with these insanely high-pitched screaming vocals. Killer!

“The Ten Plagues” is a victory at every level – concise, yet replete with conviction and force of effort courtesy Matt Smith (Theocracy). Smith’s vocal clarity, tone and pitch is always refreshing, but where the message (in this case to Pharoah) had to be so crystal clear, who better to deliver it than Smith himself!

“No cure for plague boils/No hope when thunder spoils/No escape from the darkness/No point to fight our God”

While Exodus is a lyrically saturated album (as are most concept pieces), the instrumental elements of Signum Regis should not go understated – these 3 guys can tear it up which they showcase on the instrumental interlude “Last Days in Egypt.”

The title track features a merging of Signum Regis and Balance of Power. Co-written by Ronnie and Lance King, there is a familiar vibe and melody line here, with the style best described as a melodic metal rocker with killer hooks ala Impellitteri. It is certainly one of the catchiest and most melodically satisfying songs on the album.

In similar melodic metal brilliant fashion “Song of Deliverance” follows as Brazilian vocalist Daisa Munhoz sings her heart out accompanied in the choruses by Lance King and Matt Smith. This “song of praise” is one of the fastest tracks on the album and one of the more progressive in nature with its dynamic structure, heavier emphasis on keyboards, and longer duration. While the song represents the climax of the story, Signum Regis has more to say…

“Mountain of God” is somewhat of a reprise musically, but it represents a critical intervention in the lives of the Hebrews lyrically. Originally it was presented almost as a “bonus” track after “Sole Survivor” on the 2013 release. Enter Mayo Patranin. Love this guy’s voice, and this song served as his debut for Signum Regis. His legacy with the band stands for itself as “the rest was history.”

The Helloween cover of “Sole Survivor” was originally recorded by the band’s previous drummer (Adrian Ciel) and Göran Edman on vocals. Amazing track.

Ulterium Records

Track Listing:

1. On the Nile (2:16)

2. Enslaved (4:46)

3. The Promised Land (5:29)

4. Let Us Go (4:03)

5. Wrath of Pharoah (4:36)

6. The Ten Plagues (4:44)

7. Last Days in Egypt (3:48)

8. Exodus (4:14)

9. Song of Deliverance (6:50)

10. Mountain of God (4:07)

11. Sole Survivor (4:32)

12. Enslaved (Jota Fortinho) (4:46)

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