“(Heavy) Metal is getting older. There are no good bands anymore. Musicians nowadays are so uncreative.“ Year for year we have to hear the same statements implying a steady decay of our scene. And once again André and I feel our blood boiling as these for the most part quite conservative and simply ignorant remarks couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course bands formed in the 70‘s and 80‘s are now steadily fading away but that’s simply the circle of life. Having fulfilled their duty, having played their role in the grand game, they have paved the path for many young and inspiring acts carrying on the flame.
It’s not any different this year. Just as last year and the year before, we could name you at least ten bands that have emerged out of the unknown depths this year. Yes, we could. But to be perfectly honest: As we have made it our task to promote new artists and offer them a platform to present themselves we already featured most of the bands, we could now mention and therefore there would be no added value for anyone. So instead we came up with the idea of spotlighting three newcomer-bands/projects who through their releases – even at this early stage on their career – have left a mark on the scene. A mark that might already be seen or one that could be seen in the future!
We were encouraged in this decision by the fact that both of us immediately agreed on the bands/releases fulfilling the aforementioned function, that are:
1. Animus Liberatus: Bergfried – Romantik I
If I had found out about Erech Leleth and all of his truly supreme projects earlier, Carathis and Ancient Mastery would have both made last year’s newcomer-list. When dealing with Epic Black Metal there‘s no way around his projects. Thus, when Bergfried – Romantik I was released in April this year, the excitement was immeasurable. Yet what we were delivered wasn’t what we expected. It couldn’t be, as we wouldn’t have been able to expect what Bergfried really is. Even after countless times listening to it I cannot find the right words for a short and precise definition. Partly Heavy Metal, partly Folk Rock throughout the whole release the sound rides on a wave of epicness, oscillating between grandeur on the one and personal contemplation on the other hand. Either way it resonates with the well known genius of Erech – and for once I claim to not exaggerate – but additionally is sophisticated and rounded off by the simply amazing voice of Anna De Savoy vaulting this project to new heights. Strongly pulling at the listener’s heartstrings the songs telling the tragic tale of two loved ones reach whole new spheres of emotion. One has to acknowledge the sublimity and uniqueness of this release, described as Romantic Medieval Metal by the mastermind himself (interview on Epic Metal Blog: click here), hence it being emulated is sheer unimaginable. Nevertheless, Bergfried pushes the boundaries of what we have known in Metal so far and of what we can expect. Animus Liberatus!
2. Maiestas Transcendens: Vanaheim – Een Verloren Verhaal
We had the opportunity to witness this band live twice this year – on two consecutive days. André had told me to give this band a listen, after all we’d consider me not necessarily the expert but the bigger Pagan Metal enthusiast. Yet, ignorant as l am, I couldn’t get myself motivated may it halve been because of personal stress may it have been me being sceptic because of the rather modern first impression. Either way, only rarely did a live performance of a band I had never listened to before animate me that much. Telling an imposing and extremely epic tale about the simplicity of man in light of the eternal Matriarch, Mother Earth, it felt as if mountain-like giants were stomping across the stage hurling massive boulders of stone. A big part of that must be traced back to the vocals of Zino van Leerdam combining and mastering countless different vocal styles. His live presence might have been incredible but so is also his presence on the album, mighty, keeping up with the massive overall sound, sublimely epic on the one side entrancingly progressive on the other. Powerful keyboards are very prominent without feeling cheap or artificial, while superb, multilayered guitar playing and folk elements added by guest-sessions on cello and violin make the magic happen. Is it Pagan Metal? Partly, it is reminiscent of bands like Falkenbach. Is it Epic Folk Metal? One definitely might be reminded of bands like Moonsorrow. Epic Black Metal? Well the influence bands like Summoning must have had is undeniable, yet limiting the music down to one genre would be unworthy of what it has truly has to offer. Maiestas Transcendens.
3. Iter Faciendum: Arð – Take Up My Bones
It was around 634 when St. Aidan, whose name I share, founded a monastery on a small island off the coast of Northumbria. People who have been following the Blog since the beginning know that I have a special connection to the Holy Island. Having been there, having felt the magic left a mark on me. So when I first stumbled over Mark Deek and his project Arð at the end of last year, it immediately sparked my interest. The concept was already clear, following the final moments of the famous Northumbrian monk, bishop and posthumously saint, as well as his legacy, while the musical direction as an observant was less tangible. Even after listening to the first singles this perception was shrouded in mist. This continued when the record was finally released, but eventually the fog lifted and rays of light shone through. Vocals, predominantly in form of chants, aren’t neccesarliy in the centre of Arð‘s sound – prolonged passages get by without any vocals at all. Quite the contratry they contribute to an overall mystical atmosphere, channeling the spirit of Northumbrian lands, an ecclesiastical stream conncecting the Celtic with the Anglo-Saxon. Heavy guitars embed the gentle piano-melodies in a powerful Doom-sound. I’ve become aware of the term “Monastic Doom” being used a lot and personally I really like this categorisation, clearly indicating the direction of the music while still giving it enough space for its own identity, because something like Arð hasn’t been done before. Mark’s boldness has lifted the fog of new pathways revitalising a scene not exactly known for its ground-breaking creativity. Iter Faciendum.
Besides these three very special bands, there were many other great newcomers this year that ought to be checked out! We will talk more about Phantom Spell in the following weeks but the epitome of top-notch Epic Rock should definitely be pointed out. The same accounts for Riders of Rohan with a special shoutout to the amazing vocal performances. Fans of a rather Power Metal-oriented sound should meanwhile take a look at the promising debut EPs of Lost Dawning and Æternia. If one fancies cranky Epic Heavy Metal in the tradition of Manilla Road Greece’s Clarent Blade can be recommended while the debut records of Thy Listless Heart and On the Loose should quench the first for high quality Epic Doom.