Vorpal Nomad - Hyperborea 4/5

Reviewed: 8-1-12


1. Hyperborea
2. Skull island
3. The brotherhood
4. Final cry for freedom
5. Last hero on earth
6. The Mad Hatter
7. Vorpal Nomad
8. The otherworld falls down
9. Jack o’ lantern (bonus track)

What, exactly, is a Vorpal Nomad? Trusty internet research tells me that “vorpal” is a word that Lewis Carroll invented in his ‘Jabberwocky’ poem, and that the term has since been appropriated by the role-playing game community to refer to a slashing bladed weapon that has been magically enchanted to be infinitely sharp. So a vorpal nomad would be a pretty badass perpetrator, because he would be magically enchanted and unbelievably sharp, and would simultaneously be untethered to any one place or people as he wandered the Earth. Interesting notion. You wouldn’t want to mess with a vorpal nomad. More importantly for the task at hand, however, Vorpal Nomad is a new band from Colombia whose scintillating debut CD, ‘Hyperborea’, has just been unleashed on humanity.

To my knowledge, the only “name” musician in Vorpal Nomad is vocalist Felipe Machado Franco, who also sings in Thunderblast and is an internationally acclaimed heavy metal cover artist (Rage, Blind Guardian, Burning Point, Iron Savior, Savage Circus, Theocracy, Blaze Bayley, and many others have used his work in recent years). As Felipe explains, Vorpal Nomad is his way of remaining musically active in the classic European power metal genre even as Thunderblast has moved on to thrashier, more aggressive realms in their latest CD, ‘Invaders from another world’. That’s not to say, however, that Vorpal Nomad is some kind of early Thunderblast clone. It’s nothing of the sort. The creative guiding force behind Vorpal Nomad is guitarist Nicolas Waldo, who composes all the music and has a different approach than Thunderblast axeman/writer German Guerra. Waldo has a tremendous sense of melody, and a knack for penning addictive guitar themes that run through a song and, at their best, recall prime Andre Olbrich, Kai Hansen or Andy Larocque. Intoxicating stuff. And the band that most springs to mind when listening to ‘Hyperborea’ is unquestionably Iron Savior, especially from a songwriting standpoint and a vocal standpoint. It is only fitting, then, that Piet Sielck himself mixed and mastered this CD, contributed his trademark, instantly recognizable background vocals to the effort, and even kicked in a short lead vocal and a guitar solo. It does my heart good to hear Sielck belting out the massive choirs as he did on productions for bands like Paragon and Twisted Tower Dire a few years back.

‘Hyperborea’ is a rather concise affair, clocking in at just 41 minutes and 9 tracks (including an intro and the song “Jack o’ lantern”, which is labeled as a bonus track). It’s interesting that the band chose not to include (in re-recorded or original versions) any of the 5 songs from their ‘The spirit machine’ promo EP released last year. Some of those tracks (especially the awesome “The spirit machine” and the superb “Sacred society”) definitely deserve to be heard by a wider audience. At any rate, regardless of its compact duration, this CD does not skimp in the quality department. Single “Skull island” screams classic European power metal, sporting an amazing refrain that will make your heart skip a beat if you yearn for that timeless Iron Savior style. Machado’s gruff but emotive voice is simply outstanding here, and his performance on the whole CD surely eclipses anything he’s done before. The Alice in Wonderland-inspired speedy “The Mad Hatter” may be the best track on here, with Waldo delivering a positively divine Gamma Ray-style guitar theme and gang vocals shouting, “As mad as a hatter/as wicked as hell.” Go ahead, try to listen to this song without headbanging, throwing horns, breaking stuff, and singing along. It’s impossible. “Last hero on earth” is a happy little 3-minute ditty with a bouncy rhythm, a cheerful melody, and a spiffy vocal line from Sielck. And the dark, haunting “Jack o’ lantern” (check out that spooky guitar theme, complementing the lyrical subject matter to perfection) is the icing on the cake.

All of this said, Vorpal Nomad have left themselves some room for improvement. Not all of the songs are bona fide smashers (for example, “The brotherhood” sounds a bit more ordinary than most of its colleagues, and I’m not sure “As the otherworld falls down” really needed a 10-minute running time). The mechanical-sounding guitar tone can be a tad on the grating side at times. And, as mentioned, the running time feels a touch short. Another potential caveat is that, while I am on record as loving Machado’s powerful and expressive voice, some may find him a bit too abrasive or one-dimensional for this melodic power metal sound. But if you worship at the altar of classic Iron Savior (or if you agree with me that Thunderblast’s ‘Warzone’ is a criminally overlooked gem) and if you don’t mind a little grit in your vocals, you will be bowled over by Vorpal Nomad’s ‘Hyperborea’. Best of all, this CD is available on Canada’s Metalodic Records, which is well-distributed in North America, such that you should have little difficulty procuring a copy at a reasonable price from your one of your favorite online vendors of heavy metal goodness if you are so inclined. So go for it. As the song says, Vorpal Nomad may well “be the one to conquer the sky.”




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