Airged L'Amh - The silver arm 3/5

Reviewed: 1-21-05


1. Intro/Gaurdian of the ancient deeds
2. Fate of the king
3. Dissention seeds
4. Warp spasm
5. Mourning grief
6. The silver arm
7. Balor of the evil eye
8. The arrival
9. Armies assemble
10. Splendor divine
11. Painless vengeance
12. End domain
13. Homeland

This one's a bit off the beaten track. Here we have a Greek band whose name means "the silver arm" in Gaelic and who have released a 60 minute concept album of the same name rooted in the celtic legend of Tuatha de Dannan. They've done a couple of demo CDs previously, according to my well-worn copy of Singing Swords #4, but 'The silver arm' represents their 2nd full-length release on the aggressively improving Black Lotus imprint.

Stylistically, the band fall squarely into the uptempo epic metal camp so much beloved by their Hellenic brethren, channeling the likes of Domine, Cauldron Born, Wotan, Battleroar and Sacred Steel. The galloping power riffing is the focal point, as it should be, with vocals and occasional atmospheric keyboards submerged deep in the mix. The twist is that Airged L'Amh inject their music with bouncy celtic folk passages akin to Skyclad or Cruachan, sometimes for just a few seconds but other times for a full song. The result can be a bit disjointed, but the folky bits serve as an effective counterpoint to the blistering power metal onslaught, a breather from the otherwise-relentless assault. There are even a couple of ballads that valiantly attempt to evoke the mood of Blind Guardian's "Lord of the rings" or "Past and future secret", plus a splendid instrumental reminiscent of Maiden's classic "Ides of march" and "Los'fer words" compositions.

As I suspect the band would agree, Airged L'amh are not for everyone. Polished, shiny happy power metal this ain't. Rather, it's a much darker, heavier and above all more Epic (with a capital "E") approach. The raw production values befit the underground music, with a sometimes muddy sound, a tendency to bury the vocals, and a kitschy plastic keyboard sound that will convince no one. During the middle of one song, the guitar levels fade in and out noticeably for no discernable reason. And the singer's the weak link, hampered by a razor-thin range, a thick accent, and pronounced difficulty carrying a melody. Still, 'The silver arm' is a blind purchase for anyone who swears by uncompromising epic true metal. Thanks to their affinity for tackling ambitious lyrical subject matter, their mastery of the epic vibe, and their willingness to experiment by welding folk elements to their stainless steel foundation, Airged L'Amh have the potential to uncork a masterpiece. For now, however, they do themselves, their countrymen and their genre proud with a stout-hearted, enthusiastic debut.




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