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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Blazon Stone – Hymns Of Triumph And Death Review

Written by Dungeon Shaker
Score6/10
GenreHeavy/Power Metal (Pirate Metal)
CountrySweden
Runtime54:37
Release Date26 April 2019
Record LabelStormspell

A few years ago, I found myself in the great colonial city of Boston. For a history buff like myself, Boston is a treasure trove of early American history. I embarked on a quest to bask in everything the city had to offer. Atop my list of must-see sights along the freedom trail was the world’s oldest active commissioned warship: the USS Constitution. Old Ironsides, as the ship is affectionately known, was one of six heavy frigates commissioned by the US Congress in 1794 and launched from Boston in 1797. Unfortunately, when I arrived full of excitement, I was bummed to find the ship was undergoing repairs in dry dock. I was relegated to admiring Old Ironsides from afar. 

Blazon Stone’s fifth full-length release, Hymns of Triumph and Death, was by far my most anticipated release of 2019. The album’s predecessor, 2017’s Down in the Dark, has the distinction of becoming one of my absolute favorite albums. The task of following up such a monumental release is a nigh insurmountable task, one virtually damned from the get-go. The experience I’ve had with Hymns of Triumph and Death has been a similar one to visiting the berthed USS Constitution. The sheer magnitude and glory are right there confronting you, albeit just slightly out of reach. 

Hymns of Triumph and Death is a good record; the hallmarks of Running Wild-esque pirate metal are proudly represented. The mastermind behind this year’s ship boarding, Cederick Forsberg –going by the alias Ced– remains one of metal’s undisclosed guitar greats. He returns with an arsenal of riffs and a magazine full of familiar pirate melodies. The cannons are primed and loaded with shot, ready to fire a sonic broadside into the listener’s ear. A broadside that, while tried and true, falls just short of its intended target. 

Golden era Running Wild was great simply because Rolf Kasparek mastered the art of writing supremely catchy hooks: a trait shared by Ced. Guitar melodies which evoke the high seas during the golden age of sail and group shouts full of pirate frenzy mark those great Running Wild records as well as Ced’s more recent forays into this sound. Hymns of Triumph and Death fits comfortably within this established niche, it simply lacks the hooks that transcend it from good to great. 

The opening salvos of ‘Triumph and Death’ and ‘Heart of Stone’ are indicative of another high-quality release from Ced. ‘Heart of Stone’’s massive chorus, perhaps the highlight of the album, accompanies the very melodic guitar work which made Down in the Dark such a classic. Whereas Down in the Dark delivered classic track after classic track, Hymns of Triumph and Death sinks into a sea of overt familiarity, the kind which plagues revival acts such as Blazon Stone. Tracks such as ‘Dance of the Dead’ and ‘Iron Fist of Rock’ lack the catchy goodness of their kin ‘Down in the Dark’ and ‘Hang, Drawn, and Quartered’. The subsequent tracks are an ever too familiar retread of established traditional heavy metal tropes. Even Ced’s blistering guitar work fails to elevate the album to classic status. 

Hymns of Triumph and Death is an album full of good songs; there is nothing inherently bad on it. The formula which made Down in the Dark such a classic is present, as there is much to enjoy on this album. ‘Wavebreakers’ and ‘Howell’s Victory’ do revel in the pirate mania glory of previous Blazon Stone albums. The opportunity to witness the dry-docked USS Constitution remains a treasured memory, but it was evident that she is still primed to sail onto glory. Hymns of Triumph and Death, for me at least, has been a similar phenomenon. She wants to sail off to glory but she is simply still dry-docked.

Dungeon Shaker has been an avid fan of the metal for almost two decades now. A simple journey that began with a cassette of The Black Album, has blossomed into a lifelong obsession. A lover of all genres of metal, collector of vintage (metal) vinyl, and a soon to be historian by trade. Dungeon Shaker runs his own personal blog, thunderousvoices.com, itself a menagerie of heavy metal writing.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Favorite Bands: Blue Oyster Cult, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Tyr, Running Wild, Moonsorrow

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Grimgotts – Dragons of the Ages Review

Score7.5/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountryBritain
Runtime48:42
Release Date17 May 2019
Record LabelIndependent

It’s time once again to set sail with the mighty Grimgotts into the world of Vale to witness the war between the creatures of the seas. And, what better way to go on such a quest than to have the cheesiest, feel-good nautical metal by your side!

Honestly, I can’t say which aspect of Dragons of the Ages is more over-the-top. Is it the unified chanting in the choruses? Is it the relentless beating of the rhythm section? Or is it, perhaps, that the synths and fanfares sound like they were recorded from a thirty dollar Casio keyboard? One thing is for sure: these goofs are self-aware to the max and I fucking love it.

I mean, seriously. What the hell is this picture? It looks like one of those Windows 97 screensavers for fuck’s sake. I’m not complaining, I just wanted to point that out.

That isn’t to say there’s no substance to the album, because there definitely is. It’s light-spirited and undoubtedly uplifting with solid musicianship. They even took enough care to bring in guest vocalists for backing parts in a couple of the songs, which adds a bit more depth than if they had just recorded a bunch of backing tracks solely from the band’s Andy Barton. With regard to balancing honest music and a carefree attitude, Grimgotts stikes a perfect balance.

That being said, there is one thing that Dragons of the Ages severely lacks: variety. There isn’t a great deal of difference between the tracks, with the differences typically being limited to a slight lean toward pirate metal or power metal. There are two tracks that stick out, though, with the most obvious being the nine-minute closer: ‘Here Be Dragonlords’. The first section (just after the string intro) is easily the darkest part of the album, before it carries on to another familiar high and pulls back into a quiet piano run to finish it off. ‘War at Dawn’ is another unique track. The combination of a more somber chorus and a bit of rough vocals are enough to separate this one from the rest. There are highs and lows in other tracks, but these parts don’t do enough to deliver much of an impact.

My favourite part of the record has to be the drums. The super thick synth solos are a close second, but Mo Abdelgadir does a phenomenal job at pounding Dragons of the Ages through the skies and across the seas with the power of a dragon’s furiously-beating wings. Aside from laying down plenty of sick grooves (with ‘Turning the Tide’ having the best drum performance on the album), he drops blast beats in a few choruses where you’d least expect it, helping them hit even harder. The vocals and guitars are excellent, but the drumming here is something else.

Grimgott’s second album to date, Dragons of the Ages is by no means a genre-shattering album. Its sound is often similar to the recent Atlas Pain record, Tales of a Pathfinder (although I enjoyed this one much more), and it follows most of the power metal tropes fairly closely. However, Grimgotts have managed to make something original, super fun, and immensely uplifting. Fans of Power Quest, Twilight Force, Alestorm, and Galderia will love this album.

Grimgotts – Ancient Waters

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