Lorenguard - Eve of corruption 4.5/5

Reviewed: 3-1-12





Tracklist:

1. Eve of corruption
2. Upon the burning isles
3. Greenstone
4. Black sails and Phoenix flames
5. Secrets of the spire
6. Wrath divine
7. Dragonsbane
8. The prince and the pariah
9. Embrace
10. Hands of chaos


Wow. This is a very impressive piece of work. A couple of months ago, my friend/concert promoter Hoyt Parris recommended that I check out the new CD from Lorenguard, a 7-piece American fantasy metal band that he has booked to play the Pathfinder Metal Festival in Marietta, Georgia in July 2012. Well, Hoyt absolutely hit a grand slam with this one, as Lorenguard have turned in perhaps the finest European power metal-styled CD hailing from domestic shores in recent memory. Similar to like-minded countrymen Seven Kingdoms and The Last Alliance, Lorenguard draw heavily from Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. But Lorenguard also inject a large symphonic element (think Rhapsody of Fire) that accents rather than overshadows the power of the molten metal, and even include selective use of an ominous-sounding narrator who is somewhat reminiscent of the Bal Sagoth guy.

What’s immediately striking about ‘Eve of corruption’ is the level of professionalism and detail, both of which belie the band’s independent, self-financed status. From the breathtaking fantasy cover art to the beautiful song-by-song illustrations to the mystical lyrics about the mortal realm of Athland and the smashing of the empire of Lorendale, it is obvious that Lorenguard have spared nothing in the actualization of their art. The same is true of the production, as ‘Eve of corruption’ is sonically superior to the vast majority of independent releases that come across my desk these days. Remarkably, the liner notes show that the production team behind this CD includes studio wizards in the USA, Australia, Germany and Sweden, lending the behind-the-scenes efforts a decidedly international flavor. And I understand that the 7 band members themselves are scattered all over the United States. Who goes to this kind of trouble, effort and expense to produce a self-financed power metal CD in the USA? Lorenguard, that’s who. It is obvious that ‘Eve of corruption’ was a true labor of love for its creators.

Of course, all of these bells and whistles would mean little if the songs and performances were not worthy of such shiny, glittering accoutrements. Fortunately, they are. The guitars of Christopher Cruz and David Schneider are front and center, locked into the kind of playful, dancing, highly melodic interplay that renders the Olbrich/Siepen team so revered in power metal circles. The vocals of Robb Graves (whom some may know from the band Winterfell) are highly expressive and convincing. Although Graves lacks the histrionics and range of some of the true luminaries of the genre, he pulls off the mournful, overwrought Matt Barlow style effectively, and really sells these songs with his impassioned delivery. And, oh, what songs they are. From a songwriting standpoint, Lorenguard have unleashed a tour de force of European symphonic power metal done right. Given my predisposition for the heavier end of the European power metal genre, I was instantly drawn to the more aggressive cuts, “Wrath divine” and “Upon the burning isles”, both of which are superb and call to mind the likes of Zephaniah at their best. But the other tracks more than uphold their end of their bargain. From the mood-setting opener “Eve of corruption” to the magnificent 7-minute epic “Dragonsbane” to the speedy Manowar-flecked-with-Running-Wild “The prince and the pariah” to the positively addictive anguished chorus of “Greenstone” (love the female backing vocals in that one), Lorenguard prove adept at every facet of the larger-than-life symphonic metal genre (save, perhaps, the somewhat patchy ballad, “Embrace”).

Look, if you wanted to dismiss this stuff as nerdy Dungeons & Dragons fodder, I suppose you could. I mean, the band members have apparently given themselves names of characters in the story, and the booklet art depicts them in cartoonish fantasy regalia. And there’s a certain “cheese” factor inherent in this kind of metal, as everyone who’s ever heard Rhapsody of Fire or Blind Guardian can attest. But for those who can make their peace with (or, better yet, embrace) these escapist elements, Lorenguard will reward them with an absolutely captivating heavy metal CD that is epic, swelling, triumphant, and glorious. For that, I give thanks. In a just world, the worldwide accolades would be pouring in for ‘Eve of corruption’, so don’t miss it.



KIT




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