The vast universe of Power Metal is populated by all sorts of strange folk. And sometimes I wonder why that is. Okay, I get their penchant for fantasy tales, but – boy – sometimes things move way too far into Lalaland. You get the unicorns in space, the beer guzzlers, them screamo dudettes on a mission1), or – again – the sweetish fondue makers.
And don’t get me wrong, all those performers are high-end professionals and they know the stuff they strut. Also, the RMR deckhands had a ton of fun already with some of them. Because the deadly serious can weigh on ye to no end. And here we often are in lighthearted territory.
Yet sometimes, I yearn for something well-balanced with enough oomph to please my metallic urges. But without getting to these often inane extremes.
So, the RMR deckhands were happy to come across Vandor and their sophomore full-length album On a Moonlit Night.
True, it is Power Metal without a shred of a doubt. And I got a kick out of the hooded figure on the boat that insanely looks like the dude from Assassin’s Creed. But the neat production and powerful delivery really made us stay awhile. Woe, PM bands out there, you got company and they’re hungry.
Already the speedily soaring Mountains of Avagale really had my foot madly tapping to the breakneck rhythm these guys chose to go with their fare. To the point that I felt like calling some of the genre fixtures2) to give them a hint as to how their metal might be improved. If only Vandor here had included the intro directly into this track #2, things might just have turned out even better.
On a Moonlit Night sports Power Metal with a modern veneer. Case in point, we truly relished the bass that constantly wafts to the forefront. It’s always a great thing to give a usually underrated instrument so much space. The crew also marveled at the effortless change from tempi and tone. From full-speed metal to dreamy flute-laden melodies and back without batting an eyelid. Not many bands can do that quite this way.
Of course, in a Power Metal record, everything stands and falls with the vocalist. And it is here that I missed some clarity. First, the recording quality does not seem to be up to par with the rest. Second, whilst Vide Bjerde sounds great most of the time, the upper reaches are kinda hit and miss. In other words, we’re not yet at early Dickinson levels3) and we’re lightyears away from the lethal weapons Ms. Slayes often likes to use. But this guy might indeed get there. Because – apart from all that nasty critique – he sports a bunch of impressive pipes.
Now, for those who are afraid that the record will land you in the midst of all those gruesome cheesemakers, fear naught. Somehow, Vandor managed to compose epic pieces of some 18 minutes of airplay without stepping into something. Besides, The Sword to End All Wars is insanely well arranged with some cheeky references to Queen and stellar guitar work that took us aback. Even at its impressive length, there’s no second of boredom. Because here traditional Power Metal is somewhat on hold, and in sails classic rock, dreamy melodies, and a ton of prog that would make Arjen Lucassen proud.
So in the end, Vandor mightily surprised this crew. On a Moonlit Night delivers Power Metal without landing you in the middle of the doldrums. The record cruises in on an arrangement that we really had trouble finding fault with. A clean production, where everything in the mix has a meaning and nothing is lost in the process. And not once did this reviewer scratch her head in confusion. The record just sails along to its ultimate conclusion in a way that one never feels the lengthy 55 minutes or so of playtime.
In short, Vandor just unexpectedly became one of our preferred Power Metal bands over here – and they did so in a hurry. Let’s just hope they’ll follow this piece up with moar material soon4). Great record.
Ed’s note: And they got competition. Try Ilium if you dare.
|1.||Yet, I admit, UTA have much improved since that particular disaster. So, all good now.|
|2.||Yeah, I’m looking straight at you, Arrayan Path.|
|3.||Yeah, emphasis is on early ’80s performance. Bruce almighty is not all that garden-fresh anymore. Just sayin’. -Ed.|
|4.||Like right away, we’re an unreasonable bunch of ghouls over here.|