Armored Dawn - Barbarians In Black - (9/10)
Published on April 30, 2018
I bought this CD because it had dragons and a knight on the cover, and song titles like “Men Of Odin”, “Beware Of The Dragon” and “Gods Of Metal”. This was supposed to be a fun, yet generic, Hammerfall-clone along the lines of Steel Attack or Drakkar, containing flowery melodies, layers of pompous strings and joyful hooks. But ooooh no! What do the brilliant Brazilians of Armored Dawn give me? One of the hardest, heaviest and downright fantastic power metal albums of 2018 so far. Bastards. I should’ve noticed this wasn’t gonna be your regular Neverworld or Symphony Of Enchanted Lands when I saw the sticker on the front of the CD informing me this was produced by the mighty Seeb Levermann. Seeb is the guitarist/vocalist for German powerhouse Orden Ogan, also one of the heaviest acts in power metal today. Naturally, Armored Dawn’s sophomore record Barbarians In Black follows suit – and most resembles their German counterparts – but the Brazilians definitely have a few niche tricks of their own to show off.
I cannot think of a better track on the album to commence proceedings than the utterly explosive “Beware Of The Dragon”. No fairies or elves in sight. Just fire-breathing, scary-ass motherfucking dragons. Depicted effectively by the amazing main riff which perfectly displays Armored Dawn’s penchant for creative riff-writing. The riffs on this record are memorable yet always complex and never quite repeat when you expect – I call this the Kreator Effect. Sure, they get a tad simpler on the more anthemic “Gods Of Metal” and “Survivor” but that only shows the band understand the importance of…wait for it, power metal bands…variety! Yes, Barbarians In Black succeeds where so many other LPs fall down; no track is overly similar to its predecessor, so the whole experience feels like a complete and cohesive package with a beginning, middle and end. The fiery opener, which segues into the noble “Bloodstone” makes for a pretty incredible chapter 1.
By this point, the anomaly that is Eduardo Parras’ voice may have already become a talking point. He was noticeably weak on the debut Power Of Warrior, but has improved tenfold here. That doesn’t mean his oddly straight vocals are any less intriguing. He is quite far back in the mix, but he still commands a macho presence which suits the atmosphere of the record. It’s almost refreshing to hear a power metal act where the beefy guitar is the star instead of the mic-wielder. The layered vocals in each chorus are sublime, however – especially in the grandiose “Men Of Odin.” Their slightly more sophisticated approach to the genre starts to wane towards the album’s latter half, where both “Gods Of Metal” and “Survivor” see the Brazilians channelling their inner Dream Evil. Thankfully, the closing title-track picks it right back up again, letting the listener know that it was a deliberate deviation for the sake of structure. On reflection, I appreciate those two tracks for the anthemic heavy metal hymns they are.
The production quality is stunning, particularly the really punchy drum sound. Keys also sit quite far back in the mix, but provide a necessary layer at the most grand of times – and almost always take charge of a song’s opening moments.The absolute gem in the crown of Barbarians In Black is the headbang-worthy “Chance To live Again”. With its dramatic chorus, blazing solo and badass main riff which reminds me so much of Pagan’s Mind. Hell, even the ballad “Sail Away” retains a melancholy beauty in its simplicity (though I admit it was a bizarre choice for a single). If you’re looking for non-wimpy power metal along the lines of a more riff-centric Orden Ogan or a more bombastic Mystic Prophecy, Armored Dawn have got you covered. As long as you’re not the type to care too much about vocal quality, Barbarians In Black is sure to make it onto your list of ‘best power metal albums of 2018’.