Greetings, and welcome to another twelve months of the Crusade of Power!

I trust you all had a happy and restful Christmas break, and are refreshed and ready to rock! Let’s get into this month’s action!

Vandor Circus
Gothenburg is rightly famous as a Scandinavian metal hub, and the latest band to issue forth from it’s Nordic maw are Vandor! Staunchly traditional in approach, Vandor purvey a muscly yet tuneful brand of power metal that’s high on melody and rich in talent and execution.

Vaguely reminiscent of Aussie stalwarts Vanishing Point, Vandor are led from the front by the quite excellent vocals of Vide Bjerde, who also contributes rhythm guitar. Bjerde is a bona fide vocal talent, a voice that’s certainly ready to join Europe’s top division if there’s any justice. His work on the superb (and very eighties-sounding) Possessive Eyes will have you out of your seat and punching the air, as will the superb lead work of Jack L. Stroem, who solos like a man possessed on the track.

As you can imagine, we hear a lot of this sort of music here at the Crusade, but I genuinely haven’t been this excited about a power metal release in a long time. In the Land of Vandor is out at the end of the month – it’s an essential purchase, and Vandor are our band of the month to boot!

Black Sun Tales
Black Sun Circus
Canadians Black Sun Tales take a pretty basic folk metal template but guild it nicely with enough touches of prog rock and power metal to keep the listener interested. The opening track on their recently-released new album, A Wanderer’s Stories, for instance, kicks in with a real whiff of Jethro Tull with it’s flutes and acoustic guitars before giving way to a thunderous and very pure metal style that is great to listen to.

Vocalist Wolf Biller mixes up his approach nicely, running the gamut from sinister crooning through declamatory singing to metal screaming and back again, whilst never over singing or hogging the limelight. Some of the production work leaves a little to be desired – Ray Arthur’s drums in particular failing to get the attention they deserve – but overall this is well worth adding to your collection if you consider yourself to be a fan of folk and/or progressive metal.

Syth Circus
Scotland’s Syth have had a stop-start career spanning nearly twenty years; their new album Road to Infinity is heralded by the band themselves as a career-ending swansong, which is a shame because there is some truly wonderful metal to be heard on the record. At their best the band prompt memories of the late great Tokyo Blade, their classic Maidenesque chugathons really raising the blood on tracks such as the anthemic title song. Actually, they are better than Tokyo Blade in the vocal department – Dave Bissett sings Andy Marsh into a cocked hat – but that resolutely British metallic gleam is mined directly from the same seam as the ‘Blade…

Elsewhere the band give Satan a run for their money on the fast and furious Defiance, which features some fine drumming from Mark Connelly, whilst the slow-building, dramatic My Bitterness adds elements of American power metal masters Iced Earth to the mix.

If this indeed is Syth’s last musical gasp then they have at least gone down with all guns blazing, and any fan of true metal should be proud to add this to their collection. Mighty fine stuff!

Ars Nova
Ars Circus
Catalans Ars Nova peddle a superior blend of power and prog metal, topped off with a neoclassical edge thanks to the baroque skills of guitarists Daniel Alonso and Carlos Sierra. Their new album, Sombra y Luz, features some masterful playing and impassioned vocals courtesy of the excellent Alfonso Sánchez. Tracks such as Diáspora feature rousing melodies and heart-swelling refrains; despite the band singing in their own tongue, you’ll find yourself swept along by the emotionally-charged songcraft on display throughout. Blanco is even better, building layer upon layer of melody into a titanic piece of prog pop that encourages the hairs on the back of the neck to stand to attention in approbation.

Alter Ego is heavier, riffier and altogether more sinister, but no less compelling in its own way. It’s heady stuff, and you’ll find yourself eagerly returning to Sombra y Luz’s best moments again and again.

Koburg Circus
London-based multi-instrumentalist/fetish model Koburg has a new album out this month, entitled, suitably enough, The Enchantress. I say suitably enough, because she really has hatched an enchanting album, choc full of languid, beguiling tracks such as A Cold Day in Hell and the incredible title track which fuse futuristic gothic themes and atmospheres to a style of songwriting rooted firmly in the conventional. Conventional needn’t necessarily mean staid or boring, of course, and my guarantee is you’ll certainly not be bored listening to this.

Standout cut Echoes in the Night melds elements of EDM to a stentorian, Sisters of Mercy feel with frankly devastating results, though it might not be to the taste of more metal-minded Crusaders. Koburg herself is a rather good vocalist bringing to mind hallowed names like Terri Nunn and Lisa Dalbello whilst still very much retaining her own, striking, personality. Well worth a punt if you’re feeling adventurous.

Okay, that’s it for this month – after you’ve had the chance to digest all this new music I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I suggest we’ve kicked the New Year off in fine fashion!

Until next month,

Hail and Kill