Beholder - The legend begins 3/5
1. Enter the realm
2. The ring of freedom
3. Ivory tower
4. Call for revenge
5. Blood and pain
6. The ancient prophecy - The journey
7. The ancient prophecy - The oath
8. The fallen kingdom
9. Until darkness falls
10. Chains of fate
This CD took a bit to grow on me...Which is ironic, given that it's completely in the style I love hearing, European power metal, with some interesting touches, a concept album of fantasy lyrics, with lots of melody, power, and speed. But the biggest detriment for bands like this is that there have just been so many releases in this style, it becomes harder and harder for the mind and heart to get excited about such similar music. It doesn't necessarily mean a band's bad or mediocre, I think it's just a point of diminishing return when there's so much in a similar style being done.
But anyway, I'm thrilled that after spending some time with it, it has grown on me, and the individual glory is really beginning to shine through. This band's particular gimmick or claim to fame is a duet style of singing between a glorious female singer, Leanan Sidhe, very similar to Sabine Edelsbacher from Edenbridge, with a mellow style (and definitely of the same lineage as Tarja, Tam from Sacrilege, Power Symphony's singer, etc.), and Patrick Wire, who is in the mid-range male vocal style, ala Dragonheart, Stainless Steel, The Storyteller, Custard 'Kingdoms of your life', but maybe a bit lower than many of these. It's really a fairly equal, constantly trading lines, duet style. Especially because of Leanan's vocals, this ends up being very effective, and at least for me it's not something I've heard really before on a regular basis. Quite frankly, Wire doesn't come off in any way as the strongest singer, and yet the style is something that I just kind of enjoy as portraying a kind of simple medieval basso that you can envision a bloodstained warrior singing, and there are probably much more talented high singers who I don't enjoy as much, because this singer is very comfortable.
"The ring of freedom" starts out with a cool guitar riff and blazes right into the speedy verses and chorus, the male and female vocalist trading lines in true duet fashion. There's plenty of blazing power throughout, and there are points where the male singer's voice is pretty aggressive (but still melodic), like in "Call for revenge", and the counterpoint with Leanan ends up being great. The chorus to this song has a particularly majestic, epic feeling to it which is enrapturing! "Blood and pain" is more the same, aggression, melody, epic tales of warriors struggling...The whole CD is another elaborate concept album taking standard Manowar fantasyisms and melding them with a more elaborate story, which is still great by me! How can I not like: "Take your shield and seize your sword to fight before the walls/Run through blades and kill who wants to make your people fall!" "The ancient prophecy - The journey" is a graceful, delicate intro reminiscent of the "I want to win..." section from Rhapsody's 'Legendary tales'. "The ancient prophecy - The oath" (when's the last time you heard a song called "The oath" that wasn't cool?) then takes off with more power after the harpsichordish arpeggios at the beginning. "The fallen kingdom" starts off with this great verse "Friend, look at the sky, winds of storm, dark clouds of war/And now, remember him, our mighty king, he died yesterday" which just has such a compelling melody you're driven along relentlessly with its aggressive assault. "Until darkness falls" begins as a touching, searching lament of the woman for the warrior heading off to war, with a very memorable chorus, that you'll really like if you enjoy Edenbridge. (Romance is much more acceptable as a song subject if it's in the context of a fantasy war). "Chains of fate" is the epic CD closer, more of the same type of fantasy glory.
I think people that like bands like The Storyteller, Dragonheart, and Rhapsody will really enjoy a CD like this. Overall, despite a "gimmick", the music, lyrics, etc., are not high on an originality scale, but it does have a unique enough feeling to make it more interesting, and it's all done well if you like the style, as I do, so it's something I'm really having fun with.
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