SummaryScreaming and ripping
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The term progressive metal might have lost its clear meaning at this point, but once upon a time, there was a good chance that anything associated with it fell into the early Queensrÿche, Crimson Glory or Fates Warning vein. Enter Lord Bane, who you could link with these three bands to a certain degree and in fact, I’d like to believe that this is the album Crimson Glory could have released in the early 90’s, had they gone into a more progressive direction. Shawn Ames sounds like a dead ringer of Midnight; wailing out in the wild and you can bet he’s one of the reasons why Lord Bane rules. Another reason comes down to the bending guitars work; which makes Age of Elegance an album full of surprises. On one hand, certain thundering riffs can definitely be linked to the 80’s US power metal sound that was a force to be reckoned with. ‘Promise of Prophecy’ is the best example of such; which stylistically could have easily appeared on Crimson Glory’s Transcendence (even if I prefer it over anything on that album). On the other hand, plenty of groove-driven riffs chug and slap hard around the emotional vocal wails and gloomy haze of the keyboards.
As with plenty of earlier progressive/power metal albums, Age of Elegance evokes a fantastical atmosphere and yet it’s wonderfully sophisticated due to its progressive tendencies. Of course, this means that we’re dealing with an inaccessible album and this is something I got reminded of rather quickly. Most of the songs are somewhat of a challenge and become more rewarding once you become familiar with them. Given the dynamic nature of the guitars, they rarely operate in a straightforward manner, nor do they rely on earworm-sized hooks that hammer into your brain. ‘Fawns’ is an epic opener with chants introducing the guitars going for the attack from different angles; storming their way through the labyrinthine narrative and tearing the walls with massive chugs, yet nothing ever becomes too vague or puzzling for its own good. Vocally, too, things take a bizarre, yet enjoyable turn. Shawn Ames doesn’t shy away from hitting any thundering high notes here and there, yet he refrains from relying on the upper part of his register all the time. Instead, he almost brings to mind the idea of Midnight going for the toned down gothic style that James Rivera introduced on Nosferatu.
From here, Lord Bane reveals many sides of themselves and mostly do so with superb results. ‘Like the Lion’ is a threatening animal of a track that’s somewhat groove-oriented, but I’d be lying if this doesn’t sound absolutely fantastic. Shawn Ames’ vocals explode around the stop-go riffs of punishing intensity and if only more progressive metal bands tried to ape this stuff… well, I don’t think that they could have done half of a good job. ‘Queen Ann’ tells a dramatic tale of a mystical woman that plenty of US power metal bands had a thing for. Musically, it’s another advanced take on progressive/power metal; with chopping guitars slashing their way through the challenging narrative – almost recalling Prodigy’s As Darkness Reigns; albeit without the thrash-inspired tendencies. Ending the album on a straightforward note, ‘Promise of Prophecy’ gallops through violent battlefields, with Shawn Ames commanding his soldiers into battle with his pitchy war cries. It’s the most accessible and simplistic tune on the album, sure, yet this song absolutely rips and if you’re a fan of riff-driven US power metal, then I guarantee that you’ll absolutely love it.
Now, the metallic material sounds pretty neat, but the eerie, yet melancholic ballad that is ‘If Broken Hearts Could Kill’ shouldn’t be dismissed, either. Stylistically, it’s reminiscent of Crimson Glory’s ‘Lost Reflection’, but this sounds like an even longer journey of torment and emotional suffering. Shawn Ames sounds like he’s in agony during his search for someone; gradually becoming more desperate as the song progresses. Guitars eventually kick into high gear, with a riff-happy chorus making it between the foggy keys, yet my favorite scene has to be that emotional climax after the chorus has been repeated for the second time. It’s a short, yet incredibly powerful segment, where Shawn Ames wails over a series of tensed guitar passages, then briefly disappears out of the narrative, before the guitar leads and moody keys start to conjure painful memories of love long time gone… or perhaps had never existed in the first place.
If you couldn’t tell by the rating, Age of Elegance isn’t perfect and there are two things that bother me about it. Out of all the tunes, I’m not too fond of ‘Moriah’. Even though it’s a groove-inspired behemoth with a dramatic feel to it, it falls into the laid back chugging territory. The thrilling leads rule, as do the majestic keys, but from a seven minute long tune, I’d expect the guitars to be a bit more engaging. The quiet production isn’t exactly optimal, either. It makes Age of Elegance sound like a demo and the mix is rather uneven, with keys managing to overpower the guitars from time to time and what was the last time you enjoyed that to begin with, anyway?
The flaws should be easy to overlook for a progressive/power metal freak, though. So, if you’re also into this kind of stuff, then you’ve just found yourself a new band to get obsessed with. Oh, and the artwork is also quite something… who knew that Jesus Christ looked that ripped to begin with?
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