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Ancient Bards - Soulless child 4/5

Reviewed: 2-1-12


1. Struggle for life
2. To the master of darkness
3. Gates of Noland
4. Broken illusion
5. All that is true
6. Valiant ride
7. Dinanzi al flagello
8. Soulless child
9. Through my veins
10. Hope dies last

Back in February 2010, Italian symphonic power metal newcomers Ancient Bards released their epic debut CD called ‘The alliance of the kings’. Word spread fast about the new young band around the traps and before long, Ancient Bards found themselves in the limelight. Reviews across the board were all positive and many were anticipating what will come next from their camp.

21 months later, the Ancient Bards have returned to deliver their sophomore CD, ‘Soulless child’. The only line-up change since the debut has been drummer Alessandro Carichini leaving the band in 2011 and replaced by Federico Gatti, the rest of the band remains the same. ‘Soulless child’ continues the trend set by these Italians back with the debut and after one CD under their belts, and a few years more experience, Ancient Bards have a far polished sound that should again mesmerise and satisfy those who love their female fronted European symphonic power metal.

Speaking of the vocalist, Sara Squadrani is a wonderful vocalist, who reminds me of Elise C. Martin, as I mentioned in the review for their debut. When I first heard her, I wasn’t sure whether her voice was strong enough to stand tall against the huge build-up of fierce guitars, thundering drumming, soaring choirs and orchestral elements. The same question has reappeared when listening to ‘Soulless child’, where in some songs I feel her voice does not come across as powerful as it should be and is slightly drowned out by the music. Squadrani, however, has improved overall since the debut.

The debut tells the story about the “Black crystal sword saga” and ‘Soulless child’ continues on with this story with new characters, new hidden dangers and new adventures. Once again the track lengths on the new CD are quite long, the CD as a whole clocking in at 66 minutes spread across 10 songs, including the 14 minute final track, the hugely epic “Hope dies last”. Adding to the fiery symphonic power metal, Ancient Bards have also includes traces of neo-classical and folk metal elements into their sound, to produce yet another grand movie-score styled CD, with lengthy and blistering solos to give your air guitars a massive workout. Kudos must be given to certain members of the band, particularly guitarists Fabio Balducci and Claudio Pietronik, who have given one hell of a performance on this CD.

After the orchestral intro (that contains spoken word), it builds up to the opening epic track “To the master of darkness”. Clocking at over 7 minutes, the song contains thundering double-bass pummelling, heavy bass guitar and a fast galloping riff. With choirs aplenty and the orchestras at full throttle, Sara Squadrani holds her own well here against the plethora of sound around her. Normally singing at a medium pitch, she can also break out the high notes with ease and confidence.

“Gates of Noland” shows Sara taking control of the track, singing in a powerful style and showing her improvement from the previous CD. More choirs make their presence felt here and again the music is swift and bombastic. Another excellent track is the melodic and neo-classical styled “Broken illusion”, within you’ll find pulsating double-bass yet again, fierce guitar riffs and constructive keyboards with Sara again at the helm with the choirs to aid her.

At this rate I’ll be mentioning every song, which I won’t do a spoil it for you. Obviously the song structures pretty much follow the same mould with each track, so I’ll just mention a few more standout tracks remaining on ‘Soulless child’. They include the title track, the extravagant 9 minute “Soulless child” and the grand epic CD closer, the huge 14 minute “Hope dies last”. My only gripe on ‘Soulless child’ is that pretty much all the songs are very similar to one another, with no break in between. A slower song, a ballad or a song with a different structure would have done wonders to break up these similar sounding tracks, and overall it can be over-bearing going from track 1 to track 10 in one shot.

Despite that, Ancient Bards have produced a very good 2nd CD in a typical and logical evolvement for the band. The story-telling may not be new, but at least it’s a new story to tell. The band has improved from the debut, not a hell of a lot, but that’s a good thing when the debut was extremely good. Fans of blistering female fronted symphonic power metal should jump right on this, while fans of bands like Fairyland or Soulspell should also enjoy what 'Soulless child' has to offer.




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