I can't escape my fate
To her I'm loyal to the end
Her I will protect
Till in fire I will fade"
One Word Review: Worthy
Evertale's debut, Of Dragons And Elves, was a real gem. Even with a few flaws, I regard it as my favorite power metal album of the past decade. So it was with great anticipation I started listening to their follow-up.
The first time I heard that the title of their new album was The Great Brotherwar, I was excited that they might stay within the realm of Dragonlance, though I quickly discovered, they did indeed not decide to tackle the Legends quite yet (I still hope), and was thus, slightly perplexed by the strange album title.
The Dragonlance saga has been left behind, in favor of songs inspired by fantasy novels and various computer games, primarily Warhammer 40k, but Skyrim and Dragon Age: Origins also make appearances. Having expanded their lyrical universe disappointed me at first, because I longed for more Dragonlance, but these realms suit the band perfectly and are ripe for picking for future albums. I still fondly remember playing Ultima Underworld II back in the early nineties, to the sound of Manowar's Sign Of The Hammer and Hail To England, and that connection between Heavy Metal and computer games, is forever burned in my mind, and just makes sense. So I find it interesting when bands make the reverse connection and do it with sincerity, not parody.
In retrospect, I was a bit harsh on the debut, which is also the reason I found myself adding to that review several times after posting it. I wanted to avoid that this time around, and thus have given The Great Brotherwar ample time to breathe and grow. That was a good choice, since I was somewhat disappointed the first many times, I listened to the album. I found it lacking in memorable songs, and those huge moments of power metal ecstasy I found on the debut, seemed to have diminished. But something happened after several months and around the 20'th listen.
Suddenly the album found its groove in my head and each song started growing immensely. I finally found its greatness, and amazingly, I started finding melody, coherence and focus in songs that previously had felt lacking in just those areas. This is one of those albums that really blooms with time.
The band blast their way through the album and never slow down for more than the occasional short breather, the songs are complex, with a variety of tempo changes, evolving melodies and layered vocals. There are no ballads here, and it is a welcome evolution.
Highlights are abound, but one of my absolute favorite things about the band and their songwriting, is their special ability to add short, fist-clenching vocal passages of melodic brilliance to their choruses. These moments are inspired and infuse an immense sense of power and majesty in their songs.
Take the opener, Empire Rising, already a headbanging delight, fast and furious, but when the chorus hits and lead singer Matthias Graf screams "Mankind bound to the stars", it propels the song to another dimension and I am completely sold.
Another example is The Journey To Iskendria, which builds an incredible tension, from its mystical instrumental intro, Oceans Of Sand, the bombastic opening moments of the main song, followed by a slow passage of melancholic beauty, slowly evolving, rising and falling, as it now speeds towards its pinnacle with a chorus, where sparks fly. That "To ban the shadows from afar" vocal line gets me every time, and I find it amazing how much feeling and power, Matthias can wring from a single line. It is quite magnificent.
The strengths of the songs may not be readily apparant, as mentioned, but will show themselves with time. A fascinating example is a moment from March Of The Nord and And The Dragons Return, which flow together in one strong unity. At 01:02, following the line "Hammer and axe shall sing", a most excellent dual guitar melody appears briefly. It is a short moment, and that guitar melody only appears once like that during the entire song, but it fuels the whole thing with an urgency and a special feeling of delight. The fact that the same melody pops up in other songs in different variations only adds to the feeling that there is still something to discover here, even after a silly amount of listening.
I could go on and describe moments of majestic power in each of the songs, but will leave the rest for your discovery, as that is really the greatest delight of the album, actually discovering those moments. My only point of critique would be the lyrics, which I find too heavy on the use of friends, brothers and sons, but that is a minor quibble, when the music is as good as it is here.
It has come to the point where every single song has something special to offer. The Great Brotherwar holds many secrets and rewards the patient listener. It is not often you will find such detail and complexity in power metal. This is one band who does not take the easy route, and I applaud them for it. Highly recommended.
Written By Steen
Online: Thursday, March 29, 2018
Chapter 666 (We Are The Hammer)