Lorenguard – Eve Of Corruption
Eve Of Corruption: The Days Of Astasia – Part One
There are a number of thematic planes upon which metal bands exist. There’s your basic “Drugs, sex, and rock and roll”, all the way to deep and shaking personal psychological journeys. All music, in a way, is a representation of a story, and within the power metal scene, this often leads to bouts of fantasy and whimsy. Epic fantasy in general is an oft-used topic that many people seem to be jaded with. How many times has Rhapsody (Of Fire) recycled fantasy themes that were second to the music, and that most of the listeners didn’t really care about? It takes a good concept to create an appealing story, and considerable music prowess to properly tell that story in the form of an album, so please consider it no mean feat when I say that the heretofore unsung (well, in metal circles anyways) heroes of Lorenguard are doing it right proper.
Eve Of Corruption is unlike storytelling greats like Rhapsody (and perhaps similar to Dragonland) in that the songs flow episodically. Rather than building up to a single climax, each track has a very singular identity and, casting aside the typical motifs of elves, dwarves, dragons, wizards (and…hobbits?), focuses instead upon an earth-shaking series of events in which the realm of Athland struggles against a nebulous corruptor and the delicate Balance that must be maintained, less total war break out once again. Not only is the subject matter varied from your standard high fantasy fare, but the lyrics read like a novel, supplemented by further storytelling in the cd booklet. To better explain what I mean, consider Dragonland’s recent blockbuster Under The Grey Banner. While Eve Of Corruption might sound very similar so far, it reads more like a chronicle out of an (exciting) history book that one stumbles across rather than a building sequence of dramatic tunes- and they do it all without resorting to any brief storytelling or instrumental tracks. Since it has no “filler” tracks, Eve Of Corruption doesn’t necessitate always listening to the album as a whole (whereas with a story like Dragonland’s, I would prefer this).
So is the music any good? Well, this is most definitely a metal album, and definitely a power metal album, albeit a richly varied mosaic of influences and styles. There are progressive sections, ripping neo-classical guitar solos, and even points where the general drive of the music is supplemented by thrash and even death metal elements. Stereotypical speedy power metal chording is checked out as guitars rely on a mixture of riffing, acoustic support, and molten leads to deliver an appropriate backdrop. The drumwork is surprisingly varied and dynamic, and the strong presence of very well executed keyboards makes me teeter on the edge of calling them my favorite part. Production is second-to-none for an unsigned metal band (and better than most budget sympho-power projects), and instruments are surprisingly well balanced. My only real beef lies with the vocals. Not so much with singer Rob Graves’ voice itself (though he has a Jonas Heidgert-esque tendency for strange slurs which bother me a bit) so much as the style in which it is done. There is a general lack of typical power metal anthems on Eve Of Corruption, which is to be expected due to its nature. I feel like Graves is held back in a way, since most choruses end up being a layered affair, and only on a couple of songs does he step forward to really belt things out. It feels largely as if he is being restrained, though this is really a minor complaint at best.
Luckily, to add to its knack for narration, Lorenguard has variety in spades. Aggressive songs like “Upon The Burning Isles” and the latter half of “Secrets Of The Spire” (Graves does cut loose with some proper screaming here!) give way to fantastic melody in “Greenstone” (which itself drifts into an eternity of despair). Another surefire sign of success? A ballad that doesn’t fall flat on its face! Actually, “Embrace” demands considerable respect for the superbly atmospheric piano work and lovely duet between Graves and guest vocalist (his wife!) Amanda Wells. My personal favorites include “Greenstone”, the speedy malevolence of “The Prince And The Pariah”, and “Dragonsbane”, with its epic tale of a legendary blade.
For most musicians, a story is a construct used to bear an artist’s musical ideas. With Lorenguard, quite the opposite is true. As you might guess, the fellows from Lorenguard are gamers and fantasy lovers, and Eve Of Corruption only represents one part of a continuing saga. Drummer Brady Sadler has written a novel by the same name that will be released sometime in early 2012. After the excellent musical odyssey of this album, I’m sure it will drive a number of fans (myself included) to purchase the full story. I recommend Eve Of Corruption to any fan of symphonic power metal that’s looking for more variety, any lover of fantasy in metal whatsoever, and anyone looking for a good story in their music. With any luck, this album will bridge genres, pull in gamers and readers who wouldn’t even have thought themselves metalheads, and generally unite all listeners under the banner of the Lorenguard.
Dan’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5