Ancient Bards - Origine - (9.5/10)
Published on January 4, 2019
Now it is time for you to know about its genesis…
In the wake of the farcical dissolution of Rhapsody Of Fire, thank heavens we have bands like Ancient Bards. In my experience, one of the most respected acts to emerge from the symphonic power metal underground – courtesy of the ever-reliable Limb Music. The Italians’ debut, The Alliance of the Kings, back in 2010 was the first instalment in The Black Crystal Sword Saga and remains one of the finest albums of that year in the power metal genre. Here in 2019, nine years later (five years after their last full-length), the Bards return with Origine: The Black Crystal Sword Saga – Part II. The storytelling characteristic – complete with narration – is stronger than ever, the artwork is phenomenal, and the music is no less than stellar. Probably their finest work to date.
However, this isn’t an album full of instant hits. It’s the general timbre that will draw in listeners. Aided by the amazingly clear and bright production quality, Ancient Bards provide a rich layer of grand orchestration undercut by brilliantly wholesome and driving power metal – at times, stonkingly heavy! The choirs are well-placed and thicken the texture to grandiose levels, and the occasional harsh vocals are done with class, adding an extra dimension to the music. Both “Oscurità” and “Impious Dystopia” are instant highlights due to this aspect alone. But I am in no way disparaging the talents of Sara Squadrini, whose angelic vocals soar among the clouds with sheer majesty. Just listen to her utterly nailing the final chorus of “Aureum Legacy” – man, that is just glorious!
Those looking for the instantaneous catchiness of anthems from the previous Black Crystal Sword record are looking in the wrong place. There’s no “Birth Of Evil” here (though “Home Of The Rejects” comes close). This is thinking-man’s power metal; each cut containing progressive tinges that require multiple listens to be fully rewarding. The ebb and flow from pounding chugs to hymnal refrains is flawlessly executed and never leaves the listener either bored or worried. Big stylistic changes are handled with sophistication and control. The jig-like “Fantasy’s Wings” is just as perfectly managed as the beautifully sweeping “Light” (incidentally one of the best metal ‘ballads’ in recent years).
Of course, the jewel in the crown of Origine is the 15-minute finale “The Great Divide”. Split into three movements, but never exhibiting segregative qualities, this epic masterpiece takes the listener on a musical journey through peaks and valleys, highs and lows, replete with memorable riffs and admirable vocal athletics. When the narration brings the whole affair to a close, one feels exhaustingly satisfied. Ancient Bards have made the ultimate statement on staying relevant in a sub-genre too often maligned. It’s no small feat to create a symphonic power metal album with as much class and elegance as this. It’s literally the first week in January, but I feel so confident in declaring this among the best power metal albums of 2019. No doubt.