Dan and Arno’s 2013 in Review: Best Debuts
We like to think that a list like this is pretty much mandatory each year, if only to highlight the importance of fresh new talent. While some of these aren’t really “new” bands per se, they’re a new entity and a fresh face. We’ve covered everything here during the year, but some of it has received much more attention than others. So then, in no particular order…
1) Gloryhammer – Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife
Arno: When first it was announced that Christopher Bowes of Alestorm-fame/infamy was releasing a full-fledged fantasy power metal album, I had more doubts than when I’m drunk and in line to order some fried food or other. I remained vaguely optimistic and in the end was pleasantly surprised. Not only is Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife a tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of the Rhapsody-model (itself lifted directly from Joseph Campbells hero-model), it’s also a wonderful homage to it. It’s the Scream or Kick-Ass of power metal records. Now that Alestorm’s gimmick is running staler than a thousand-year-old barrel of rum, it’s nice to see Bowes has another trick up his sleeve than that pony of his. Heroic Scotsman Angus McFife fights evil-bloke-of-the-week Zargothrax (son of Wonderwax) and his army of evil unicorns FOR THE SAKE OF DUNDEE! It doesn’t get more ridiculous or delightful than this.
2) Evertale – Of Dragons And Elves
Dan: To utilize a common cliché, we can’t stop talking about this album (seriously, I think it’s been featured on every list from the two of us on the year). I’m not going to say much here, consequently, other than there has probably never been a more explosive fantasy power metal debut album (I easily include Rhapsody in this statement), that Evertale has mastered songwriting maturity far beyond its years, and that ignorance of this album is unacceptable
3) Bane Of Winterstorm – The Last Sons Of Perylin
Arno: Fantasy power metal got a boost back in 2011 when Dragonland and Lorenguard decided to rewrite the Rhapsodian rulebook. Since then, some bands have taken note, most notably (see above) Evertale, as well as Australia’s Bane Of Winterstorm. The Last Sons Of Perylin shows as much dedication to story as you’re likely to find this side of an actual book (remember when books weren’t movies?), and can therefore be a little introverted on the first spin. I still don’t know what it’s about (blame me for not picking this one up on CD yet), but I’m assuming Perilyn’s a country (or a king), the sons are supposed to save it, and they’re in short supply (no word on daughters, though). Details be damned, because the music gives you an appropriate idea of the story’s epic scope and is suitably dark, thrilling, and adventurous. It wouldn’t hurt the Aussies to write some shorter songs, but their debut functions so well as a whole that it’s a minor thing to complain about.
4) Heavatar – Opus I – All My Kingdoms
Arno: We all know Van Canto: the band that went from an a cappella gimmick to metal legitimacy. Haven’t you always wondered, though, what Stephan Schmidt’s music would be like with actual guitars instead of guys imitating them? Look no further, because Heavatar is just that. It’s Van Canto in 3D: a blend of neoclassical elements and Blind Guardian-styled German power metal with Schmidt showing an impressive vocal reach outside the rakkatakka-area. You may have heard some of the melodies before, but other than its influences – both internal and external – it’s one hundred percent original and doesn’t have a single cover version. Van Canto will probably always be the priority (because it makes more money), but if it were up to me, I’d rather have another Heavatar than an a cappella recreation of *insert random rock/metal classic here*.
5) Withem – The Point Of You
Dan: Choppy, driving, mixed-tempo melodic prog never sounded so good this year, at least until Withem showed up. Or, as I like to think of them, “The band of spontaneous chugs, screams, and flourishes, all done up so nicely that you just keep craving more”. This is precisely the kind of prog that, at the beginning of last year, I wouldn’t have thought totally viable, but which young bands like Illusion Suite and Withem conjure up in overwhelming waves. Smooth charisma rebounds off of heavy developmental sections in a manner as accomplished as genre veterans such as Seventh Wonder and Circus Maximus. If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed this release was the breaking-out third or fourth release from a well-established act. Bravo!
6) Nautiluz – Leaving All Behind
Dan: Peru has churned out half a dozen poor to decent power metal bands in the last few years (Yawarheim, Aevum, and The Fallen Symmetry come to mind), but nothing like this. Nautiluz’s debut is polished, professional, and anthemic Euro-styled power metal with a few of the band’s own touches. Let’s not fool around here though: fast and catchy is the order of the day, and Nautiluz has immediately placed itself alongside fluffy genre darlings like Power Quest, ReinXeed, Freedom Call, and others with Leaving All Behind. Whether or not they stay there and grow that success is the story of their next album, but there’s enough quality material here to ensure that a milestone of non-Brazilian South American power metal has been placed.