Welcome back to the Crusade! After a sweltering Summer break we’re back for the attack again! As ever, there’s a lot to get through so I’ll stop whittering now – enjoy the metal!
First up this month is an album I’m surprised didn’t get some love elsewhere in Sentinel Daily… War of the Worlds Pt 1 is the new solo outing from Symphony X guitar God Michael Romeo, and utterly compelling it is too.
Obviously there are elements of Symphony X at play here sonically, as well as nods to fellow titans of the overblown like Rhapsody (of Fire) et al. However on tracks like F*cking Robots Romeo betrays in interest in more modern djent and EBM sounds, the resultant din being strangely satisfying.
He doesn’t stray too far from the source, however, so fans of all his work with ‘the day job’ can approach this album with full confidence of they haven’t already.
Darkest Sins alumnus Marius Danielsen has hatched a new metal opera for your delectation in the shape of his Legend of Valley Doom opus, which was released last week. There’s a Symphony X connection here too, as bassist Mike LePond is among one of the thirty-odd guest musicians taking part in the project.
Space precludes a full list of all those lending a hand, but if I drop the following names – Ross the Boss, Chris Caffery, Timo Tolkki, Edu Falaschi, Alex Holzwarth and Mark Boals – you’ll have an idea of the calibre of names involved in getting Danielsen’s ideas off the ground.
Musically melodic Germanic power metal is the name of the day – tracks like Free as the Wind could well have been Freedom Call outtakes – and there’s plenty to get excited about on the album if that’s your bag.
Much heavier in concept are New Yorkers Eternal Crypt, whose folkish black metal finds flesh in their new album, released in early July and entitled The Loneliness of the Wolf.
Black metal they may be, but there’s an intense melodicism at play here which means their music has the capacity to cross boundaries and appeal to more traditionally-minded Crusaders.
Essentially a one man band (hails to Zane Knight who does most of the musical legwork on the album), the album still sounds cohesive enough to pass itself off as the work of a full band.
The title track is superb, and if songs like Lady of the Night still have a bit of a ‘bedroom’ sound about them they still do enough to get the pulse racing, suggesting that if this project could get into a higher quality recording situation then rewards might be great for both musician and listener. Promising stuff nonetheless!
Still on the heavier side of things are Argentina’s Wolface.
Intriguingly the band attempts to fuse highly melodic heavy metal – almost traditional in outlook, in fact, with some brutally heavy death metal vocals courtesy of Juan Cruz Lopez. Although the two sides jar the senses occasionally, the overall effect on their new six-track album is surprisingly pleasing to the ear.
This is not music that strikes the listener at first contact – Wolface are a taste you’ll have to work at acquiring – but the effort is worth it in the end.
El Lado Oscuro
Staying South of the River Plate geographically but a World away musically from Wolface we find El Lado Oscuro, who plough a much more traditional Crusader-friendly furrow.
That’s to say they purvey a spirited brand of power/traditional metal that owes much to the likes of Maiden, Priest and Helloween whilst still retaining the band’s own flavour. Priest fans will be interested to hear the band’s take on The Hellion/Electric Eye – I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say it’s certainly worth a spin – but anyone with an ear for solid, pumping heavy metal played with sincerity and panache is in for a pleasant time in the company of ELO…
Talking of cover versions, Americans Aeon Bridge have slotted in a terrific version of Yngwie J Malmsteen’s Rising Force on their just-released fifth album, Modus Continuata, which embellishes just enough on the original to make it a compelling listen – the raw keyboard sound on the solos is a joy to hear.
The band’s original material isn’t far behind, with songs like Godswar getting the neck nodding despite the biscuit tin computerised drums. We’re not big fans of entirely instrumental music here at The Crusade, but occasionally well-executed material like this gets a pass – if vocal-free is your thing (the Yngwie cover aside) then you’ll love every second of Modus Continuata, and then some.
Buck Tow Truck
Canada’s Buck Tow Truck – another one man band, this time in the form of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Andrew Dona – cook up some fascinating sounds on their new, self-titled album.
Opening (instrumental) track Robot Fortress sounds like the soundtrack to an early eighties scifi B-Movie, kinda like Shocker but without Paul Stanley and Desmond Child emoting all over the place, whilst the quirky Prince John sounds like something Type O Negative’s Peter Steele might have gotten involved with in one of his lighter moments.
Elsewhere the aptly-named Funky Love adds lots of space-rock keys into it’s riffy mix, and although again there aren’t enough vocals across the album for my liking, there are certainly enough moments of interest across BTT to make it worth a listen.
Closing this month’s Crusade we have San Franciscans Ancient Empire, who have just released their fourth full length entitled Eternal Soldier.
Put simply this is American power metal done right. The template is well worn by now, but the band breathes life into their metal by making sure the little things aren’t forgotten. That makes for a slightly ‘heard it all before’ experience at times, but when the bands being brought to mind are as good as Leatherwolf, Icon, Savatage or Iced Earth then surely something’s being done right.
Joe Liszt has a fine, melodically fantastic voice, and the guitar interplay of Liszt and Robert Edwards on the title track is quite superb.
Again, no new ground is being broken here, but when the drums pick up speed and Dan Lynch starts rattling his bass – again on this album’s superb title track – there’s not much wrong with the world. Album of the month!
Well, that’s it for now – until next month – hail and kill!