Hail to you all, and welcome to the very first Crusade of 2021!

I’m hoping to get the column back on track this year on a more regular basis, but to do that we need great bands to write about each and every month, so please don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you think there are bands we should be covering here! Now, on with the power!

Ominous Glory
January 2021
Kicking off this month’s Crusade we have Ominous Glory, who hail from Philadelphia in the US. The band has recently released a new album, The Elven Dream, which despite coming out this year was actually composed back at the start of the twenty first century! Purporting to be influenced by bands from ‘the second wave of power metal that ran from 1995 to 2001’, the band weave together the usual strands of pompous symphonic mayhem and bucolic folk reverie in accomplished style; you’ll get a strong whiff of Rhapsody of Fire from much of the material here (though Jamison Wright‘s keyboard sounds add an intriguing seventies edge to some of the material), which coupled with the OTT vocalising of Rek Anthony (the man has a classic US power metal voice redolent of Virgin Steele‘s David DeFeis in his pomp) makes for a pretty satisfying listening experience.

The title track has a bit of Avantasia about it, and if you enjoy any of the bands mentioned here it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t be absolutely lapping up Ominous Glory’s output. A great way to start a new year!

Omega Anima
January 2021
Next up we travel to Mexico – a place we haven’t visited in a while here at the Crusade – and the superb symphonic metal attack of Omega Anima.

These Monterrey natives work in essentially the same area as Ominous Glory; however the keyboards of Abraham Mirazo take more of a front seat here – some of his lead work is really out of the top draw – whilst at the vocal helm we find Pamela Jasso, a lady whose voice really elevates some of the material here, lifting it out of the ‘merely’ good folder and up into the one marked ‘great’!

These guys really know how to crank up the drama levels – instrumental track Cosmos sounds like the theme to several imaginary movies crammed into a spine tingling three and a bit minutes of music virtuosity – but they also know how to ease off on the chops as well, meaning that they manage to create music that won’t just appeal to bedroom guitarists and air keyboard aficionados…

Magia is an early highlight, and is perhaps the track that shows Omega Anima off in their best light, but repeated listens will bring a veritable horde of highlights to the fore if you are willing to simply give yourself to the album over an extended period. En el Abismo manages to united all of the band’s various sensibilities, too, with Mirazo and guitarist Adrian Pacheco duelling effortlessly whilst Jasso weaves beguiling tales (in Spanish, not that that will curb your enjoyment) over the top. A must have album for anyone who enjoys the more extravagantly talented side of power metal! Release of the month!

January 2021
It’s hard not to fall for Cypriots Hardraw from the first seconds of their just-re-released Night of the Wolf opus. Starting with a portentous, spoken word intro straight out of the Manowar playbook is an ambitious move, but somehow these guys pull it off and then back it up with an exhilarating set of straight up heavy metal songs that suck you in and demand your loyalty!

Originally recorded and released in 2005, the album is a little primitive in sound and production values, but that doesn’t in any way detract from the always-obvious sincerity with which the songs are put together. ‘heavy metal union will never, ever die!’ they declare on the opening track of the same name, and, I kid you not, you’ll find yourself balling your hand into a fist and punching the air in affirmation whether you want to or not!

When heavy metal is played this honestly, and with this much integrity it’s hard to resist, and I’m convinced you’ll love this record as much as me if you let it get under your skin. They may not score heavily on originality, they may not sound like a million dollars – but Hardraw are quintessentially heavy metal and sometimes that really is enough.

January 2021
Back on a symphonic tip we find Italian assault team Winterage. The Genoese outfit are shortly to unleash their second album, The Inheritance of Beauty, on ears worldwide (January 15th on Scarlet records, to be precise) but as I’ve been enjoying the album for a while now I thought I’d jump in an exhort you to get on the case when the album comes out!

If you’re unfamiliar with the band thus far the fact that they are Italian should point you towards making a fair approximation of their sound; The opening track on the new album, the cod-operatic instrumental Ouverture, is as fine an example of ‘kitchen sink’ metal as you’re likely to hear, cramming male and female choruses, folk instrumentation and neoclassical floridity into one gloriously overblown package. When the ‘real’ music starts, however, the band strip things back just a little, allowing the power drumming of Luca Ghiglione and the strafing guitar of Gianluca Bambini carry most of the musical weight. For the first part of the song, at least…

That’s not to say there aren’t lashings more church organ gymnastics going on elsewhere – there are – but fans of symphonic metal who like their guitars front and centre of the mix will be pleased to hear that for the most part that’s very much the case here. Gabrieli Boschi adds a progressive touch with his fluid violin playing – another nice point of difference to the standard symphonic sturm und drang, methinks – and the overall feel your reviewer gets from this album is that it is a real step up from the band’s 2015 debut, The Harmonic Passage.

Tracks like The Wisdom of Us add an anthemic quality that’s hard to resist – vocalist Daniele Barbarossa shines here – and if there’s still a bit too much directionless genre diversity at times, you should still do yourself a favour and cop an earful of The Inheritance of Beauty as soon as you can.

And that’s that for this month – I hope you’ve enjoyed at least some of the music we’ve dug up for you this month.

See you next time,

hail and kill,