As announced, we present you two reviews of this album. Today it’s Aidan’s turn.
In order to create a perfect record, a timeless piece of art, it is in my opinion is essential that it has an overarching atmosphere which in itself is conclusive and consummate. Due to this it is hardly surprising that this sort of sublimity has almost exclusively been reached by genius creators, like Quorthon (Bathory) or Vratyas Vakyas (Falkenbach), who clearly must have had a vivid story in mind which they wanted to tell. One record that managed to capture this spark of brilliancy – and truly came out of nothing back in 2020 – is the debut EP Colossus of the American Epic Metal band Fer de Lance. Despite its brevity it crowned over everything that year had to offer – the phenomenal albums of Wytch Hazel and Dark Forest have thereby been acknowledged in this calculation! Subsequently the thrill of anticipation yet also the expectations for the first full-length album, The Hyperborean, have been immeasurably high. Alas, I only could have been disappointed, right?
Hyperborea, a mystical land beyond the Northern Wind, a symbol of beautiful solitude, beauty that in our “civilised“ world has been lost to greed and injustice. Hyberborea is also the destination of a mariner in search of a better place, yet unaware of what awaits him. So the sails are set and the journey begins with waves crashing against the hull and a cold breeze dancing around us. In front of us lies the moonlit sea, a sea man has claimed to be his. In the shadow of mighty rocks, in the shadow of the greatest of our ancestors we exit familiar waters and enter the vast mysterious ocean leaving behind those who with their bestiality doomed us all.
In Epic Metal lyrics are a primary ingredient. For some they on their own define epicness, reading through those fantastical stories, diving into magical adventures, dwelling in mythical worlds. Yet the approach of Fer de Lance is a little different. Therefore, let me quote from the info text:
“The Hyperborean” concept was born from MP’s extended isolation during last winter’s pandemic. Rooted within this world, the concept is not intended to be escapist fantasy but it inspires the cold beauty of dark seas, frigid winds and starry nights.
What am I supposed to add to this? MP had already proven on Colossus that he is a superb lyricist with a discernment of conveying important messages packaged in a truly beautiful belletristic manner. However, in my opinion, he managed to surpass himself on this record. In epic poetry the Odyssian motive has always been popular while being complex at the same time having so much to offer. MP succeeds to extract this potential, as a vivid image is painted infront of our inner eye, featuring so many different emotions and atmospheres. Fully captivated by the precise potrayal of our world embroidered wtih leaps into ancient mythology once becomes part of this voyage – the “Aurora Borealis“, the “Northern Skies“, the “Arctic Winds“…. Hyperborea are fully painted out in one’s mind. At the same time the critical lyrics of “Ad Bestias“ and “Sirens“ are all the more striking showing how man throughout the millennias, throughout all downfalls and all progress has always stayed the same.
Only in light of this the musical arrangement fully unfolds. One just has to take a look at “Ad Bestias“, which due to implementation of blast beats and tremolo picking might irritate conservative listeners. By engaging with the lyrics it becomes obvious how well crafted this song is as it just perfectly transmits the right tone. Besides, Morgul Blade have proven last year that tradtitional Epic Metal can highly profit from Extreme Metal influences. Equally important are MP’s vocals, which again stand out as one of, if not the, ultimate highlight. Without a doubt they embody the charm of Viking-Era-Bathory while being much more sophisticated though. Tall as a mountain, endless like the ocean, fiery as the sky during sunset – words don’t do them justice. They are full of character I believe one has to hear oneself in order to fully understand, maybe like Dio, they do sound similiar at parts.
With that said the vocals might steal the show, right? By no means! The phenomenal guitars are likewise impressive with MP and Mandy Martillo (Midnight Dice) merging together acoustic and elctric passages magnificently. This trademark is especially dominant on “Northern Skies“ inducing a somewhat romantically melancholic atmosphere, reminiscent of “Triumph and Tragedy“ on the debut EP. Thanks to the joining of J. Geist Fer de Lance might also be capable of delivering this magic on stage. (Well I can tell you that I have been desperately awating their debut gig at next year’s KIT festival, they’ll most definitely be one of the highlights of the festival!) The same accounts for the rhythmic section with Rüsty playing the bass and Scud sitting behind the drums. It is them who set the course and lay the foundation for the songs, which of course becomes particularly evident on “Ad Bestias“, but one can additionally assess that the high variety of different tones on this album has its roots within them.
Conclusion: After only 20 minutes on the debut EP it now, after 50 more minutes, seems much more justifiable for me render a clear verdict. As I said expectations were too high to be satisfied, but Fer de Lance might just have managed to accomplish this miracle. The band’s performance is absolutely flawless with MP’s vocals entering the realm of Epic Metal legends, with the blend of acoustic and electric guitars opening up new fields of possibility, with vigorous guitar solos and with the rhythmical section setting the cornerstones. In regards of the lyrics, songwriting and creativity Fer de Lance set whole standards. A song like “Sirens“ eclipses everything – with the possible exception of Atlantean Kodex and Solstice – we have heard in recent years in its massive dimension, its awe-inspiring scale, and one could probably go back even further. It doesn’t get boring either with The Hyperborean possessing a variety of different tones and styles, ranging from the powerful “The Mariner“, over the rather tranquil “Northern Skies“ and abrasively stygian “Arctic Winds“, to the grand finisher, the atmospheric title track. Again I’d like to point out “Ad Bestias“ in particular though: This song proves how opening up for different influences while staying true to oneself breaks the mould, broadens the horizon and thus offers a whole new perspective. So finally I’ll return to words that came to my mind after first listening to “Ad Bestias“, which applies to the whole record, even to the band itself:
Epic Metal has just been marked with a new touchstone. The Beginning of a New Dawn!