Guardians of Andromeda - Light years from destiny 3.5/5
1. Spirit of the eagle
2. Kingdom of hate
3. For the love of metal
4. In the halls of our fathers
5. Shine on
6. Wrath of war
7. Always in your heart
8. The tyranny of the angels of the four winds
9. A warriors lament
You wait forever for a bus and then 3 come along at once. Only last month I had a good old moan while reviewing Damnation Angels' debut about the utter dearth of U.K. power metal, and then sure enough a promo copy of Guardians of Andromeda’s debut was winging its way to me. Granted, it had been on release for 2 years before it came to me and I’m still waiting on band number 3 to complete the hat-trick, but it really couldn’t have come along at a better time.
The name rung a bell with me right away, and from the mists of time came a memory of seeing a band on the acoustic stage at Bloodstock Open Air the previous year, decked out in wizard’s robes and with a singer with a voice like melodic thunder.
As you can probably guess from that, they really are one of those “in for a penny, in for a pound” power metal acts – costumes, pseudonyms, massive fictional backstory and concept. Very, very European in other words, and the music thankfully follows suit – ultra-melodic, very fast, soaring choruses, the works.
The vocal set-up is a little unusual, and from what I can piece together from the promo material and online blogs, the founder and boss man Mikael (nominally the bassist, but playing a bit of everything here) performed some of the vocals before the band were joined by Phaellan, and the contrasting styles gives a little added spice to some of the songs. True, they are close enough in style that when one takes lead and the contrast isn’t apparent it’s hard to tell which is which, but on the songs where they trade vocals and the falsettos come screaming from nowhere, it adds a whole extra touch of class.
The influences from other bands are plain to hear, and while I won’t comb through every song and pick out the familiar moments, fans of classic Nocturnal Rites, Dragonforce, Rhapsody and even Manowar should turns their heads towards this band.
Despite the familiarity, the approach to songs is actually quite varied and – with a couple of glaring exceptions - each song actually has quite a distinct style from the others. The light-speed opener “Spirit of the eagle” with its wide-open chord crashes and joyous lead guitar is immediately set upon by the more vicious “Kingdom of hate”, beefed up by a powerful gang vocal chorus and slightly more riff-minded approach, giving immediate reassurance that it won’t be an entirely predictable trip.
There is a snag unfortunately, and, as is often the case, it comes in the form of largely piano-led ballads. There are only 2 offenders, but the problem is that they are so similar to one another and light on serious content that they put a big dent into a 9 song CD. Despite coming to life towards it conclusion with some interesting guitar and keyboard soundscapes, at 6 minutes in length “For the love of metal” just takes far too long to go anywhere interesting. Separated by only a single track, the shorter “Shine on” would maybe get pass marks as the sole slow song, but it simply feels far too familiar to impress.
A 3rd such track is threatened, but after another extended piano intro, “Always in your heart” in fact blasts into orbit after as one of the CD’s most powerful and memorable songs. A duet with a female vocalist, it twists and turns through a few different directions and features an emotional and uplifting chorus and slowed-down bridge that even features a sneaky bit of Kamelot influence, the vocal resemblance to Roy Khan being, well, uncanny.
Further variety comes with the moody acoustic closing track, which shows that the Guardians can slow down and still write effective material. It’s difficult when a single hang-up can cause such deflation, but for me at least the ballad problem does do some harm to the overall package. Still though, with 7 songs ranging from good to excellent, and the sheer bloody-mindedness of playing this sort of music in the current U.K. climate, ‘Light years from destiny’ has to come with a glowing endorsement. It’s not perfect, but when the band are on form they are nigh-unstoppable. A fine debut, even allowing for a few creases here and there.
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