Winter’s Verge – The Ballad of James Tig (2020) – Review

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Sometimes these metal-coated ears of the RMR deck crew need a reprieve. A more melodic approach to things will be in order. And if there is some cheese to go with that, then so be it. It will be like some sort of a gooey bandaid, a bit sticky but part of the soundscape.

So, we were glad that Winter’s Verge just sailed by with their new concept album The Ballad of James Tig.

Usually, any band name that starts with Winter tends to emerge from the reaches of the upper North. But here, these folks hail from Cyprus of all places. So, whilst we wait for Blynd‘s new record in 2021, why not give Winter’s Verge a shot?

Now, this band sports a bunch of dandy laddies and lassies with stories about wooden ships, monsters, and strange destinations. And I truly love tales of old, creaky tubs that scour the wide, wet ocean for love and redemption. Ah, Houston, we got a match.

The Ballad of James Tig lets you embark on a typical fantasy quest. Right off the bat, the cheese drips away in pretty large flows. Yet, the cinematic taste that hits you right from the beginning had us continue. And – besides – once the insanely catchy lines of A Thousand Souls hit our shores, we were sold.

The story is all about love, success, and failure in all its sweetish splendor. Sea monsters that can’t be beaten, lonely voyages on strange oceans, epic battles, and true love finally found. It’s all there, based on a storyline from Frixos Masouras – a local playwright. Teodora Stoyanova Freya provided the operatic parts and the vocals as Nina.

Boy, The Ballad of James Tig boasts more Ayeron than it ever would Kamelot. And I just can’t shake that silly vision of a super-styled Tommy Karevik in the ship’s bow singing to Kobra Paige on a raft1). But more seriously, the storyline has a lot of the stringency of The Gentle Storm in structure. And THAT is a compliment, folks.

And for once we have an eerily cinematic and epic piece that does not try to take the wrecking ball to our mutual asses with out-of-place symphonics. Instead, the inclusion of strings and wind instruments always feels right and in line with the tune at hand. Albeit that I would have liked a tad more juice in the arrangement.

In other words, more power to chisel out the drums, percussion, and bass a bit better. For now, a lot of that just disappears in the mix or – at best – sounds totally underwater. More attention would have done a world of good. Instead, an underlying hollowness installs itself after a while, a void that – sadly – remains unfilled.

The Ballad of James Tig starts to hit real paydirt once Killagorak gets on the tracklist. No metal there, but it leads right deeper into the storyline. I Accept – the follow-on – sports that delicious groove that connects Power Metal to a rock opera. There’s a lot of harmony between George Charalambous and the female vocalist, that essential energy to good epic metalware.

Blood on the Foam seamlessly merges operatic acoustics with that Symphonic Metal we crave. Mid-tempo, a ballad at its core, the metal hurtles the storyline to its final conclusion on a gentle, but marked progression.

Oh, and in case you get confused, The Ballad of James Tig – the folksy title song – recaps the whole story for you at the end. And that, we found pretty cool.

You see, I often accused early Diabulus in Musica to confuse an opera with a metal piece, and rightly so. Well, The Ballad of James Tig just showcased how such a project is artfully done. The aforementioned shortcomings notwithstanding, Winter’s Verge just pulled a Power Metal concept album out of their proverbial hat that doesn’t try to drown us in cheese. Nor does it try to overwhelm us with so many strings that we want to hang ourselves with them.

In short, James Tig delivers a cinematic and solidly executed metal musical. An artfully presented tale, delivered by veterans of the trade. Symphonic and Power Metal that never gripes, with operatics, folksy parts, and strings that we can thoroughly recommend.

And by Loki, I’d like to see their live performance. That kind of voluptuousness just calls for a sumptuous production with stage actors and all that jazz.

Well done, folks.

*****

Record Rating: 7/10 | LabelPride & Joy Music | Web: Facebook
Album Release: 11 September 2020

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