Heralds Of The Sword – Chronicles Of Tyrinthia: Sword Sworn
Heralds Of The Sword
Chronicles Of Tyrinthia: Sword Sworn
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
I’m not quite sure where to begin with this review, so I’ll do it from first impressions. The digipak is superb, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well put-together the art and packaging was – in fact, in several ways, I was immediately reminded of American fantasy power metal countrymen Lorenguard. Heralds Of The Sword is similarly focused strongly upon story in a self-created high fantasy setting, and takes a narrative approach (although in a very different fashion – see below) to unfolding events and locations as well. Other than that, however, there are a number of key differences…
The four minute intro track, “Mystical Lands Of Tyrinthia”, actually calls to mind such ambitious endeavors as Dragonland’s “Ilmarion”, but with significantly less variation and layered atmosphere. Unlike the Swedish progressive power giants, this intro track did little other than make me impatient for some real music. However, “Kingdom Of Old” begins as an extremely basic song with an utterly simplistic chord progression and riffing – something that will soon become all too familiar. Much as it pains me to say, from this point forward, I am unlikely to be anything but critical of Chronicles Of Tyrinthia.
There are numerous issues with this album, from my point of view. First of all, to reflect upon my comparison to Lorenguard, I feel that the music here exists primarily (and perhaps solely) as a means to convey the band’s story. The problems with this are thus: the music is far, far more redundant, the story significantly more generic, and the characters and locations lack a strong and distinct musical identity. In this way, it feels more like a Rhapsody album, except that “Khadgar Of Valineth” (which, in itself, is an unoriginal name, as any World Of Warcraft player will be quick to point out) is no Fabio Lione.
Not only is “Khadgar’s” delivery often mechanical and syllabic, but he struggles with pitch in key places, lacks the proper vocal strength and command (though he doesn’t have a problem with endurance), and ultimately comes across as a rather unemotional narrator. This is the single biggest strike against the album, in my mind. However, as an experienced fan of fantasy material, I also note that Heralds Of The Sword seem to be targeting a very strange niche with this music in general: gamers (perhaps LARPers?) who are not really into metal, rather than metalheads who are into fantasy. While this isn’t a poor idea for marketability, I foresee the sheer simplicity and comparatively insubstantial nature of this release as actively working against them in the case of the latter audience.
I’ve mentioned that the music here is basic and simplistic (though as a whole I wouldn’t say that it is actively bad), and I feel the need to explain why. Keyboards are perhaps the best feature throughout the album, and do give it the occasional theatrical flair. Unfortunately, with as sparse as the instrumentation is, they’re often about the only element that really keeps the music going. There is nary a guitar lead to speak of, and even when a song kicks off in a fashion that might indicate some ongoing excitement (such as “Lodac’s Wrath” or “Litany Of Swords”, where the tempo picks up and there’s a decent instrumental melody), the ongoing instrumentation is so repetitive, and the songs run so long, that my interest is largely killed. Rhythm guitar work is EXTREMELY unimaginative and rhythmic, to the point that this music is actually almost not metal in many places by the genre’s very definition. The lead guitar player can obviously shred – would it hurt the story to make the music more interesting? The pace is sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but usually quite mechanical and predominantly lacking the bright energy that is so necessary for power metal to thrive.
Ultimately, even production for a metal album, even a self-released one, is fairly poor. Keys are by far the most prominent feature, while the rhythmic guitar chords lack any kind of meaty tone, and the drums don’t have much punch at all. For a listener like myself, this album falls unfortunately short of capturing my attention. For those fantasy fanatics that are looking for more of it in their media, this might be a good idea to check out – with the caveat that I AM one of those sorts (more so than the majority of metalheads, I’d wager), and the music is unfortunately unengaging enough that even were I into the story, I still dont think I’d come back. However, I’d have directed many of these criticisms at some debut material (including, since I’m making the comparison, to Lorenguard’s debut EP), so perhaps Heralds Of The Sword simply have some musical maturing to do. Musically, I can’t call this “epic” (though “Litany Of Swords” is perhaps not far off), it only shreds in a couple of key places, and the vocals are consistently and undeniably technically deficient in comparison to much of what’s available in the genre. Recommended only to those who preview and really enjoy the story, and perhaps to check out for power metal completists.
I may seem to be coming down awfully hard on this album, and that is because it represents two of my favorite things in the world coming together with a resounding “meh”. Put Chronicles Of Tyrinthia alongside almost any other fluffy fantasy power metal project, and I suspect you’ll agree that it comes up a bit short.
2.0 // 5