Prydain – The Gates of Aramore (Limb Music)

Monday, 29th May 2023
Rating: 8 / 10

Inspiration comes in many forms. For guitarist Austin Dixon, formerly of power metal act Sonic Prophecy, the desire to achieve an artist driven project album a la Avantasia or Star One set the stage for this new outfit Prydain. The membership consists of strong players across the power, progressive, and symphonic metal landscape stateside and abroad. Developing a debut record in The Gates of Aramore that traverses epic power metal horizons, the lyrics are based on books and video games like Fred Saberhagen’s Sword saga, Dragon Age: Origins, and The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy from Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman to match the uplifting nature to the melodies and hooks throughout the ten main tracks.

The main recruits include Pyramaze keyboardist/orchestration master Jonah Weingarten, Firewind’s Bob Katsionis on guitars/bass, and fellow Greek singer Mike Livas (Silent Winter, Timo Tolkki) – with Bob also handling the production/mixing duties. Other musicians contribute here and there lead breaks or bass parts including Katagory V’s Dustin Mitchell, Mikael Dahl of Crystal Eyes, Jimmy Hedlund of Falconer, and Jens Ludwig of Edguy. Ultimately Austin’s supreme knowledge for music, composition, and versatility positions these songs in the requisite dynamic space, especially for those who miss the peak periods of appeal during the late 90’s through early 2000’s. The narrative sequences resonate as if watching theater of the mind unfold before your eyes – Mike’s range able to hit multi-octave registers like the greats of old, including some earth-shattering falsettos, while the music explores all angels of epic power metal, sometimes evoking folk, progressive, and traditional touches. All the requisite gallops, majestic transitions, larger than life choir support, and dual keyboard/guitar battle passages also appear – conveying the best European power metal a la Blind Guardian, classic Edguy, or others in that uplifting sword & sorcery style.

Although the pace of the record goes by rather quickly in its first four tracks (just under twelve minutes), the longer songs on the back half such as “Ancient Whispers” and the almost ten-minute “Kingdom Fury” allow bigger swirls of drama unfold, from darker vocal textures to acoustic injections that next to the normal electric proceedings should keep listener in attentive, edge of your seat mode. The siren female background vocals weave in and out of the Freedom Call-esque title track, drummer Phillip Morris supplying that steady double kick/entertaining fill quota, while “Sail the Seas” possesses that folk-ish meets mid-tempo power march to batten down those hatches and be a rally cry anthem for the band. Not everything is perfect of course – there are times where Mike reaches for the stars a bit too much when something an octave lower would do, but no one can discount the man’s leather lung capacity. When other project driven albums pack as much material as they can on a CD, for Prydain Austin smartly chooses to keep the record at an ideal vinyl length timespan with forty-six minutes to process.

Professional execution and proper positioning of these musicians in their right places – including artwork from German artist Uwe Jarling (Grave Digger, Mystic Prophecy) – should get the faithful abuzz for The Gates of Aramore. We know that Prydain will go down a storm for those who live for epic fantasy, battle-tested power metal – and there are plenty still seeking out newer thunderous records to add to the coffers.

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