Ancient Bards – A New Dawn Ending (Limb Music)Wednesday, 16th July 2014
Certain labels gain acclaim for sticking to particular genres within the metal realm, forsaking any ridicule or passé commentary that may be hurled in their direction. Limb Music has always been about a particular brand of power and progressive metal, often exuding bombastic/symphonic charm that takes a framework set by 1980’s Helloween into a new cinematic/theatrical level. Italy’s Ancient Bards slot adequately in the roster, the quintet performing an epic brand of symphonic power metal with strong female siren melodies that could gain as much appeal for fans of Nightwish as they will for obvious mentors such as Rhapsody and their numerous offspring.
A New Dawn Ending represents their third full-length effort, another ambitious offering at 10 tracks and over 71 minutes of music. While my love for power metal has been everlasting (investing decades into records, concerts, and memorabilia), there’s nothing more daunting than having to set aside more time in one front to back pass of a recording than an average Game of Thrones episode. Right out of the gate, the almost 8 minute “A Greater Purposes” flashes more instrumental ability than your run of the mill acts, due to the bass soloing of Martino Garattoni and the band’s knack for shifting tempos at all the right moments amidst their speed runs and double bass ramp ups. Their folk side comes out on the keyboard heavy “Flaming Heart”, as Sara Squadrani touches upon all the requisite lower/tender register notes during the verses and lifts the emotion as the arrangement ebbs and flows.
Wisely separating the two ‘epic’ cuts at track seven for “Showdown” and the title song conclusion, the former contains segments of blast beats and a boatload of choir vocals that symphonic fans adore, while the latter is a slow turning piece filled with narrative pieces, a militant marching mid-section, and twists and turns that could be transformed to Broadway. And if that’s not enough, you also get a guest appearance on “The Last Resort” from Rhapsody (Of Fire) singer Fabio Lione, but I doubt the stragglers on the fence will buy this more because of his appearance, as this is very much in line with the genre his voice helped create (remember cinematic/Hollywood metal?).
If you can’t get enough of fantasy, swords, symphonies, and choirs wrapped around a sound that screams European power metal, then I suggest Ancient Bards will make you a believer again. As for myself, this is better than most, but not something so mind-blowing that I need to make a permanent playlist bookmark as the keyboard to guitar ratio is skewed 80/20 in the wrong direction.