One year ago Australian one-man project The Dark Horde has released their debut album The Calling inviting a bunch of local musicians. This album was released independently, without any promotional help, followed by a couple of singles for informational purposes.
The Dark Horde is ruled by only one person Andrew “Brewin” Drage, who is the creator of this project, and is also responsible for orchestrations and lyrics. This album is a prequel to his award-winning horror book “The Dark Horde” (published in 2012), a perfect soundtrack to highlight his dark and gory visions. He isn’t a composer, he’s just a writer and director of The Dark Horde. The main composers are the guitarists Logan Jacobs and Hanny Mohammed (from Black Majesty). He was joined by internationally recognized Australian musicians – four guitar players and three singers (one of them as a narrator). As a result of the joint effort, a conceptual album The Calling was born, soaked in dark atmosphere and bloody mood.
The personality of Brewin’ is also rather curious, 20 years of experience in IT and analytics, scientist in insectarium, designer and editor of fiction series, author of a science-fiction gamebook. No way, he knows how to keep himself busy, so “The Dark Horde” is his last project, and though he hasn’t any roots in a musical industry, this lack of skills didn’t stop him to try something new, and voilà, the incredibly elaborated and sophisticated record has been made.
If we compare this musical album with the book, the main difference is that the album doesn’t waver from one stylistic realm to another (like the book partly as thriller, partly as crime fiction and partly as supernatural horror). But The Calling is a very classical record with solid heavy metal foundation without any need for experimentation. And with precise and bright singing of Danny Cecati (once in Pegazus and Eyefear), we can immerse ourselves into the story of The Dark Horde. These are the dark forces meant to destroy mankind, bloodthirsty, unstoppable and terrible, that were bred and admitted to our planet by the past deeds of the protagonist (during fits of madness), and this is also very well displayed through beautiful and horror-inspired artwork. So, The Dark Horde is here, and the mankind is doomed, but what comes next, the book will tell.
This is a concept album, so no wonder, there are so many background “gaps” for extending storylines, and those are usually accompanied by unobtrusive calm passages, sometimes with tragic and sad notes, but sometimes as noisy horror ambient soundscapes. But still the epic atmosphere isn’t a rare phenomenon during this album, painting the songs with some kind of dramatic solemnity. It is not a rock opera, but sometimes this overall mood is very near to metal opera’s conception. Thus, apart from atmospheric creepiness and ritualistic impending doom, the metal side is way more ordinary and direct.
Everything is performed in a traditional manner, without any unexpected shifts or blazing emotional vibrancy (but still without static sentimental coldness). Common riffs, catchy melodies, steady pace, slightly primitive song structures and strong and a bit husky singing lines, yes, this is all about The Calling. Sometimes this heavy metal sounds too playful, but still with alarming notes (“Slaughter”). The saddest thing about this album is a lack of musical originality, just another heavy metal album from 21st century, but only at first glance. Because together with numerous reciting passages with plenty of different moods (from hypnotizing melancholy to mournful anxiety) it truly revives the traditional spirit of old school heavy metal. Sometimes you can hear some kind of hope in this music, but that’s a short-lived illusion, opening the doors to a constant pessimistic tension, but nonetheless with a fighting spirit. And the heaviest parts with some extreme singing of Shaun Farrugia lead us closer to thrash metal domain (especially on “Puppet”). But all this is insignificant, The Calling sold its soul to mighty heavy metal, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
It’s an interesting thing, when the musicians (or in this case scientists and writers) combine together music with literary activity. It’s kinda complements the emotional pattern, making it holistic and diverse with more perspectives for profound examination. And who knows, with the multitasker like Brewin’, maybe we can see him next in the cinematic projects.
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