|Classic Review: Legend (US) - From the Fjords|
|From the Fjords|
Label: Empire Records
Year released: 1979
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: December 13, 2007
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
for:From the Fjords
Rated 4.25/5 (85%) (16 Votes)
A Viking Metal album from 1979. And I thought I had seen everything. Next thing I know, the sky really will be falling. But until then, this is Legend's famed debut "From the Fjords", and it's a milestone in creative Heavy Metal. While it leaned toward the more rockish side of things, they had long, progressively-tinged songs with extremely catchy and very metallic riffs, way ahead of most other US bands at the time. Sure, there was metal around in the late 70s, but this was an epic Viking Metal album from fucking '79, for Pete's sake. Nobody else was writing stuff like this for a couple more years, not until around the time Manilla Road hit their stride.
But enough with the history lesson. The band was fronted by Kevin Nugent, who had a pleasantly calm and clear voice, yet still managed to sound convincing and interesting. He's one of the most relaxed singers I've ever heard, and it's really a shame that he passed away a few years after this album was recorded. There aren't many other singers like this guy. He also handled the guitars here, which have a noticeable Southern twang to them at times, and also produce some of the catchiest riffs ever (see the title track). His solos are crystal clear and very well handled. The bass seems to follow the guitar and provides some extra crunch to them, which is, of course, always welcome.
The drummer, Raymond Frigon, is however, one of the best drummers I've ever heard. Yet he's the main detractor on this album. It seems like there's nothing this guy can't do, and it's a shame we never saw him in any other bands after this, but here he just doesn't seem to fit. Legend wasn't an overly complex band, and their riffs were pretty simple and straightforward, as were the vocal melodies. So why is this guy showing off every chance he gets? "The Iron Horse" for example has a 3+ minute drum solo that just kind of breaks up the song and makes it hard to listen to. On the other tracks here, it's mostly okay, because you can tune it out, but he seems to like providing as many fills and beats as he possibly can, and it's annoying. No doubt, he's talented, but the band would fit better with more simplistic drumming, nothing over the top like they did here.
The album starts off with two killer tracks; "Destroyer" and "The Wizard's Vengeance." The former always ends too soon, and it's a shame, because it's got a great main riff and awesome lyrics, plus a very cool vocal performance by Nugent. There's simply nothing wrong with it, at all. Classic, classic, classic...this song will never get old. The latter is an anthemic, upbeat jingle that I first knew from the cover Slough Feg did of it on their Twilight of the Idols album, and it's fun and replayable as fuck. "The Golden Bell" is probably my favorite song here, a seven minute epic filled with time changes and packed with great lyrics and melodies, along with some cool chanting vocals. Even the drumming is not too distracting here. The leadwork is nothing short of stunning, and very reminiscent of the classic rock bands of the time (no surprise, really). Words really cannot do this song justice, it's simply perfect. If every song were like these three, then I'd just stop the review now and give the album a perfect score, but about half of this album is useless filler, and it makes me wonder why this wasn't just an EP with the four good songs on it. "The Confrontation" is good, but fairly pointless, and the two following tracks are just unmemorable as Hell. "The Iron Horse" is another instrumental, and isn't as good as it should be due to that drum solo I mentioned previously, which just kills the whole thing. Now, the title track is another great one, and I'm glad it closed the album. It leaves you on a good note, with probably the catchiest riff on the album, plus lots of time changes and unfortunately, drum wankery (I never thought I'd have to use those two words together). The lyrics are also fantastic here, telling another viking tale, and it still amazes me how far ahead of their time Legend were.
So here we have a disc of quite above average, yet flawed, epic Heavy Metal. For fans of the genre, this is mandatory, and you will really love Legend. It's not without flaws, but those can be overlooked in favor of the shining gems also to be found within this little treasure trove of Heavy Metal mastery. It's a shame they never released anything else. Highly recommended.
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