We kick off this month’s Crusade of Power with the excellent Pyramaze from Denmark. They released their fifth album, Contingent, last week and my word it’s a bit of a corker! Superb tracks like album opener Land of Information abound, with the squalling axes of Toke Skjønnemand and Jacob Hansen (yes, that Jacob Hansen – he also produced, mixed and mastered the album) providing a rock-solid base over which the commanding vocals of Terje Harøy soar. This is mature, dynamic heavy metal, with a progressive bent for sure (you’ll detect whiffs of Dream Theater in second track Kingdom of Solace), but at all times the band retain a hard-hitting bombast that makes Contingent an absolute joy to become immersed in. Top notch stuff!
Labelmates of Pyramaze, Brazil’s Vandroya also released a new album last week in the shape of the excellent Beyond the Human Mind. More classically power metal than their Danish counterparts, the central appeal of Vandroya lies in the captivating vocals of Daisa Munhoz, whose powerful pipes really are a tonic for the ears. Of course, we’ve pretty much heard everything Vandroya have to offer before – this is female-fronted power metal, after all – but the band attack the task in hand with much vigour and an awful lot of skill; Munhoz is ably supported by the superb guitar talents of Marco Lambert (who also produced the record) and Rodolfo Pagotto, whilst Otávio Nuñez is a piston-legged powerhouse behind the kit.
Bethel, Connecticut denizens Sacred Oath have been around in one form or another since 1985, staggeringly, and are about to release their eighth studio full-lengther. Not surprisingly for a band that’s been producing music for so long, Twelve Bells, which is slated for a May 12 release, is choc-full of old school US power/heavy metal, highlighting in particular the six string smarts of founder member/vocalist Rob Thorne and and his axe partner Bill Smith. The band keep things tight, punchy and relatively simple, operating in a similar area to early Iced Earth or the non-thrashy bits of Metal Church, and Twelve Bells has a satisfying meatiness to it that you’re sure to enjoy if straight-up metal is your thing.
Similarly backward-looking – in a good way, obviously – are North Carolina’s Walpyrgus, who have cooked up an enticing mixture of old school US power for their upcoming debut album, Walpyrgus Nights. Guitarists Scott Waldrop and Charlie Shackelford have formed a great partnership in the classic Tipton/Downing mould, and the catchy songs are at times a little reminiscent of fellow Yanks Twisted Tower Dire, which, in the context of the Crusade of Power, is clearly a very good thing indeed, if not entirely a surprise since Shackelford and singer Jonny Aune are both in TTD. Throw in a crafty Witch Cross cover and you have my release of the month!
Greek power metal merchants Paladine like things on the epic side; Dusky acoustic Iberian tones may usher their debut album Finding Solace into your presence, but after that it’s a gloriously unremitting assault of overdriven guitars and rampant double kick assaults. Dragonrider makes for an excellent opening statement, and the band keep up the intensity and dynamics in near-faultless fashion for the next forty minutes, ending in similarly coruscating fashion with the staccato violence of album closer The Metalizer. Power metal purists will lap this stuff up.
Italian misanthropes Valkiria have been extant since 1996, and last month released their seventh studio offering, Visions of Lost Souls. The album has an ethereal, almost post-rock feel to it in places with definite blackgaze pretensions, but for all that it’s an easy fit for anyone who is on the Crusade with us… Built around the mysterious figure of Valkus (who plays and sings just about everything) Valkiria is a vehicle for the man’s undoubted talent and monumental vision which is translated into soundscapes that veer from the somnolent to the strident yet which will always engage the listener. I use the word soundscapes advisedly here, as ‘songs’ as such are largely substituted for passages of music where voices, if used at all, are used as intruments, but this is never less than an intrigueing listen.
That’s it from the Crusade of Power for another month… high quality releases have been a bit thin on the ground of late so hopefully we will have more top class underground metal to bring to your attention in June!
Until then… Hail and Kill!