Solitary Sabred - Redemption Through Force - (8/10)
Published on November 26, 2014
Genre:Epic Heavy Metal
There’s one particular take on classic heavy metal that seems to be outright well, heavier than the others. It exists separate of the down-and-dirty street metal of the Motorhead/Acid/Venom clans and definitely packs far more weight than the high flying post-Iron Maiden/Satan/Cloven Hoof virtuosos. We simply call it “epic heavy metal” now, a somewhat questionable name but it stuck in the same way “brutal death metal” has. Emphasizing cast-iron riffing and somewhat atypical singing, it’s associated with Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol primarily alongside somewhat better known bands like Manowar and Candlemass, in particular taking the dramatic 70’s rock presentation of the former and the raw, doom metal inspired heft of the latter. It’s at once both very familiar in that you’ll understand all the individual elements but doesn’t quite fall into the average joe “retro” or throwback traditional metal act.
Solitary Sabred is a good example of this. Yes, it is “generic” in the sense that it simply captures all the baseline elements associated with the subgenre yet it manages to convey them with such violent fury and enthusiasm as to have a voice of its own. Like a lot of great metal, this band focuses primarily on riffs. Big, massive, mountain-shaking, and other exaggeration derived characteristics are how most of us are going to feel about them. Like a doom band many of them emphasize crushing downstrokes but focus less on creating a sustained ambience of density. They swoop and dive in motions that belie their surprising agility and almost like a thrash band use thicker muted segments to build up a sense of energetic tension, often being broken up by massive crashing strums like sudden avalanches. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that lead guitar is mainly playing second fiddle here but it’s well integrated, usually coming off in concise flourishes to add melodic texture to the riffing but they aren’t afraid of letting it rip during solos, quick fingered as the best of power metal’s shredder but emphasizing smoother arabesque melody, coiling yet compact, never really becoming showy.
What compliments great riffing like great singing though? Petros Leptos is suffice to insane… charismatic. He’s somewhat odd in that he’s not quite on tune and key yet it never comes off as amateur. Preferring to serve as a second lead melody over those monumental crushing chords, he has a fierce and piercing bari-tenor resembling a far more pissed off version of the late Midnight from Crimson Glory but his voice flies all over the place. He’s not afraid to go for a sustained Eric Adams style semi-falsetto, a dark Halford esque screech, or even a lower register growl that would put a few death metal vocalists to shame. He’s quite ferocious either way yet more technically competent than the savage, barbaric nature of their music might imply. Arguably some might find his performance overbearing, understandably so, but this reviewer personally feels he is by far the standout of the show, turning what would be otherwise rock-solid songs into grandiose expressions of charismatic machismo that could even give Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian a good run for his money.
If you’re not into this style… well, this might click with you. It definitely doesn’t have some of the nuance and decrepit mysticism we associate with it but its larger than life approach, at times beating the most flamboyant of modern power metal based on Petros’ ridiculously great voice alone, is a good fit for those who want raw power and no pretension behind it. While I personally won’t put this on the best of list for this year, it presents a really great example of how to take something everyone is familiar with but deliver it with far more character and personality not so much through innovation as much as just having huge metallic balls and riffs mighty enough to flatten an entire armoured column. If recent Manowar has disappointed you, then this will more or less make up for that with ease.