|Review: Heathen Foray - Armored Bards|
Label: Black Bards Entertainment
Year released: 2010
Review online: December 5, 2010
Reviewed by: Memnarch
Rated 4.08/5 (81.54%) (13 Votes)
Naming yourself after one of Falkenbach's best songs is making a bit of a statement. So you'd expect Heathen Foray to sound somewhat similar to them then? Well that's not the case here, as this Austrian five piece have more in common with Dragonforce musically than they do Falkenbach. From a country that hasn't produced much else to many other than Abigor and Summoning, this is definitely going to be a welcome new arrival to some.
They are described as Viking metal, but I would take that label with a pinch of salt as the lyrics tend to deal with European history as a whole rather than specifically Viking themes. Hannibal and the fall of Carthage and the Ottoman's siege of Vienna are but two of the various themes dealt with here so it's not really Viking metal as such, I would say that the term 'battle metal' would be more suitable to their style, in the realm of bands such as Turisas and Equilibrium. I've never viewed Viking or battle metal as legitimate genres, but that's a discussion for another time.
Take the stadium-esque death metal sound of Amon Amarth and incorporate it with the neoclassical sweeping arpeggios of Dragonforce and you've got the formula heathen Foray use. As much as I loathe to use the word when describing music, 'epic' is certainly one of the terms I would use to describe Armoured Bards' overall sound. Opener "Armoured Bards" is by far and large the best song on the album, perfectly suited to the live environment with its bombastic chorus and extremely melodic, power metal-styled guitar leads. The first thing I noticed was just how similar Robert's vocals were to Johan Hegg's; it's so uncanny, if you didn't know otherwise you'd swear blind it was him. The whole album is extremely well structured, the production is crystal clear and the guitar playing is absolutely fantastic, but after the first song it never really threatens to scale those heights again. Other notable songs worth mentioning would have to be "Bifrost", with its acoustic intro, which would be even better if it wasn't so long and "Ascension" which actually reminds me of fellow compatriot, Ray Well's project Raventhrone more than anything else. Don't get me wrong, the whole album is very good, it's just with an opener as good as "Armoured Bards" (which if it were in Amon Amarth's discography, would be a live classic) it was always going to be a huge task for them to hit that standard again. At times it comes close, but not enough.
Armoured Bards is a commendable attempt at a style of music which has been absolutely flogged to death in recent years. At times it is utterly fantastic, and at other times it does get pretty average, but this style of music does have a massive market, and the potential and opportunities for Heathen Foray to go on to much bigger and better things are there, they just have to find a touch more identity to stand out. If melo-death with fretboard tearing soloing sounds like your cup of tea, Armoured Bards is certainly sure to fill a gap anyway. Just don't expect anything revolutionary.
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