Numenor – Chronicles From The Realms Beyond Review

Score8.5/10
GenreEpic Black/Power Metal
CountrySerbia
Runtime34:35
Release Date5 September 2017
Record LabelStormspell

It’s not often that I’ll review an album that’s older than a couple months. Between the constant flow of material sent to me and my ever-decreasing amount of free time, I’m usually struggling just to keep up with current releases. But, once in a while, I’ll receive something that especially catches my ear, and I’ll check it out happily, regardless of when the album came out. The latest of these special exceptions is the third album from Serbia’s Númenor, Chronicles from the Realms Beyond, which is a unique take on Tolkien-themed metal (which, at this point, isn’t all that unique a topic anymore, is it?).

To get the best idea of what to expect from this album, think something along the lines of “man metal”. It’s rugged and intense, but brings together the musical forces of light and darkness to fight side-by-side against the true evil: boring music. It completes itself with diverse arrangements and an epic overtone that is easily noticeable but not overbearing. The most epic, power-metally songs (and, unsurprisingly, my favourites) are the opener and closer, ‘Heart of Steel’ and ‘The Last of the Dragon Lords’. But, as you venture into the guts of this deceivingly-ominous record, you’ll be suprised at what you find.

The most interesting thing about Chronicles is how skillfully it combines elements of black metal and power metal. While a couple of the songs have a majority lean toward one or the other, most of them have a pretty even balance of the two. The result of such a combination is blood-boiling ferocity surrounded by an ever-present sense of darkness. This is usually achieved by mixing dark atmospheres, harsh growls, stoic melodic sections, and a driving rhythm section into a cauldron of badassery, as is evident in tracks like ‘Moria’, ‘Over the Mountains Cold’, and ‘Witching Hour’. Along with male clean and rough vocals, there are also female vocals, which add yet another interesting layer into an album that already pushes boundaries.

My only real complaint with Chronicles is regarding the production quality. I wouldn’t quite call it “lo-fi”, but it is fairly gritty and a bit muffled. I’m not sure whether it’s like this because of studio limitations or as an artistic choice due to black metal roots, and, mind you, it could be much worse. But, even some extra oomph from the drums and guitars would go a long way. It’s not so much an issue with clarity for me as it is an issue with highlighting certain parts to deliver that kick that can take an epic metal album from awesome to exceptional.

However, the album is good enough that the production quality doesn’t suffer it too badly. Every song offers something completely different from the one before and, despite runtimes that rarely exceed four minutes, they pack a hell of a lot into their mighty bellies. Huge atmospheres? Heavy beats? Sword-raising choruses? Excellent musicians? It’s all here. Chronicles from the Realms Beyond is a killer album, and offers plenty for those who enjoy the darker side of power metal.

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Black Sun Tales – A Wanderer’s Stories Review

Score7.5/10
GenreProg/Power
CountryCanada
Runtime33:09
Release date22 Dec 2018
Record LabelNone

Canadian prog/power outfit Black Sun Tales has released their debut album, A Wanderer’s Stories (22 December, 2018). Featuring only seven songs, including the instrumental prelude (which, by the way, is one of very few I’ve heard that aren’t just a waste of album space), it makes for a listen shorter than thirty five minutes. A Wanderer’s Stories assembles elements of power, folk, and progressive metal, which adds a high level of diversity to the album.

The sound is similar to later Falconer, what with the clean vocals of Wolf Biller and folk sound that is especially prominent in the final tracks, ‘Blade of Destruction’ and ‘Living Pages’. There are a lot of harpsichord and string components, which are very in-your-face at times.

The lyrical content is fantasy-centric but it manages to stay clear of genre clichés or ridiculous tales about the power of believing in yourself (à la Freedom Call) or robot space battles (I’m looking at you, Iron Savior).

The first real track, ‘Weatherhold’, starts the album at its lowest point. The musicians are solid and nothing is necessarily bad, except maybe the synth solo, which is pretty sloppy, but nothing really sticks out. My expectations dropped from this song but, on the bright side, the album has plenty of room to get better, which it does.

Most of the proggy grooves and time changes aren’t forced and fit together well in the songs, evident in ‘Holders of the Stars’. The lyrics and parallel structure in this song are also really cool (as cool as fantasy lyrics can be, anyway). I was also really like the climbing vocal run, which sounds like something straight out of Disney, and the laid back solo section that follows.

One of my favourite tracks in A Wanderer’s Stories is Ritter’s Demon; while many of the synthesizer solos on the album aren’t anything special, the solo section in this song makes for exceptional synth and guitar solos alike. The song goes in many directions and the pulled back outro builds into a nice ending. 

Another notable mention is ‘Kivimaa’. It’s more pulled back than the rest of the record and there are no time changes or prog breaks, but it is straightforward and well done. The solos are awesome and there is even a soli at the end, which comes as a pleasant surprise. It’s nothing too complicated but solis are a rare breed in metal.

Overall, A Wanderer’s Stories is a hit for me. I wanted a bit more from it, but there is plenty of variety, especially considering the short runtime. The lyrics are actually tasteful and the songs are dynamic.

Additionally, despite the amount of prog influence, the songs aren’t strictly rigid. There is a lot of freedom that lets the background parts add more than just the typical “I’m gonna slap an extra snare onto the off beat and call it 11/8”. Fans of Dragonland, Falconer, Twilight Force, and Wisdom will enjoy this album. It will be a pleasure to see Black Sun Tales’ weave more fantastical stories.

Black Sun Tales – Ritter’s Demon

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