Saint Deamon – League of the Serpent (AFM Records)

Friday, 21st April 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

After a decade break from studio records with an excellent third album Ghost in 2019, Saint Deamon proved that their brand of melodic power metal still has plenty of appeal. Feet firmly on the ground, the quartet gained latest drummer Alfred Fridhagen (Gaia Epicus, Mad Hatter) in 2020 and set about work on the follow-up while moving up the ranks to AFM Records for League of the Serpent. After the sprawling fourteen track, seventy-one minutes plus outing last time, these musicians settled back into a comfortable forty-six-minute vinyl-length record that maintains focus on a delightful showcase of European-oriented heaviness chock full of memorable hooks musically and vocally.

The stirring folk/Viking-ish riff charge on opener “At Break of Dawn” gets the proceedings off to a galvanizing start, the subsequent culturally enhanced orchestration supplementing the soaring vocal meets singalong background melodies plus supportive calmer acoustic-oriented, tranquil transition parts. Properly gearing up and down the tempo register, Alfred can lay down a solid, cruising backbeat for a Priest-like anthem such as “The Final Fight”, flex his muscles in polyrhythmic, modern steps during “Raise Hell”, while hitting all the standard power kick / fleet fill superlatives on the uplifting “Load Your Cannons”. There’s something to be said for incorporating some low-tuned runs or action to spice up the normal melodic power metal – yet it doesn’t water down the normal musicianship abilities these musicians naturally execute. The multi-octave range of singer Jan Thore Grefstad shines from the first note on the aforementioned “At Break of Dawn” through the majestic, 6:23 “A Lie to Be Undone” – the latter dramatic in scope as he thoughtfully captures desperation, tenderness, and hope from verses to chorus and back again. Exemplary guitar work and intuitive bass play also allows the listener to hear some progressive nuances for back half highlight “Heaven to Heart” – quick hitting lead breaks sprinkled in against an addictive, soaring chorus that should appease people into Nocturnal Rites just as much as classic Helloween.

We may have only heard two albums from Saint Deamon since 2009, but in the case of Ghost and now League of the Serpent, it’s well-worth the time, energy, and financial investment to make their discography a part of your world if European-oriented melodic power metal is high on your priority listening playlist.

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