Vandor – On A Moonlit Night (Scarlet Records)Friday, 20th August 2021
Impressing right out of the gate in 2019 with a self-released debut for In the Land of Vandor, Swedish power metal troop Vandor signed with Scarlet Records and issued a follow-up for On a Moonlit Night. Taking a wide berth of influences from 70’s progressive rock and 80’s/90’s heavy metal, these musicians keep a purity and energy to their riffing, harmonies, and melodies which generates a kinetic spirit that’s very infectious from the opening intro through to the final upper register falsetto/ keyboard/ guitar combination to end the record.
Two drummers share credits on these arrangements – Robin Risander handling six songs, while Lova Krysell tackles three tracks. Both have the proper power, finesse, and killer chops to hit all those thunderous strokes people expect for the speed passages of “Mountains of Avagale” to the progressive sweeps and standard tempo needs of “Endless Sea”. The tandem interplay and uplifting keyboard parts give off that Sonata Arctica/Labyrinth atmosphere, even during a more restrained, cleaner cut like “Future to Behold”, where the backing choir during the chorus adds that deeper emotional resonance necessary to win over people who may scoff at a ballad-like effort. Another highlight of course is the epic “The Sword to End All Wars” – an eighteen-minute rollercoaster that starts off with lower register vocals/piano, building through stronger/heavier guitar parts infused with Helloween/Queen-like drama and tension, featuring more progressive instrumental movements including a killer bass/drum spotlight for Alve Bjerde and Robin while Jack L. Stroem glides effortlessly around picking impressive keyboard/lead guitar maneuvers in a Dream Theater-ish manner.
Putting things into that upper tier level for appeal are the main vocals of guitarist Vide Bjerde. Confident and bursting at the seams with personality, it’s a match made for all power metal fans when taking in standouts like “River of Life” and “Fate of Eltoria” much like you expect from the best Scandinavian acts or classic Dragonforce. Many will consider the tones and production a throwback to the late 90’s/early 2000’s as the band handles those duties themselves – and it’s a welcome relief to all of the digitally enhanced, cut and paste outings that may sound perfect but make you wonder if you are really hearing everything played by the musicians on hand. A solid follow-up to assure Vandor praise and appeal to those who love European power metal with that 1999-2003 flair.