29 Aug 2017

Eternal Champion - The Armor of Ire (No Remorse Records - 2016)

"The Armor of Ire" by Texas's Eternal Champion is one of those albums that went completely under my radar during the year that it was released and instead reached me by word of mouth later on. And it's no surprise that word traveled regarding this album, as it is indeed one of the strongest I've come across in quite a while. 

I've only just began to familiarize myself with No Remorse Records, and so far they seem to be churning out a lot of good stuff. I've gotten "The Armor of Ire" on a good looking vinyl release, including a map and description of vocalist Jason Tarpey's fictional universe in which some of the lyrics take place. Now if that isn't delightfully nerdy I don't know what is! In fact, from now on if a band does not include a map of their fictional universe, I will consider it measly and underwhelming.

And army marches out of my speakers as the monumental "I am the Hammer" leads the way into the realms of Arginor and the Western Isles (better get that map out!), all layered under ominous keyboards. Epicnes aside, this one-minute intro is probably the only skipable part of the album, luckily it's the first track and that's easily done without you having to lift and place down the needle on your player in the middle of the sides playing time. Jason's vocals have a cavernous reverb applied to them that adds to his hollow singing style. His voice took some getting used to for me, but my now I wouldn't change it for anything, he even bursts out the occasional high-pitched "Ah!" à la Jon Oliva which is absolutely charming. The song is slow and monumental and rather minimalistic without getting monotonous or boring, in fact it usually requires several listens before I can move onward onto the next track. The lyrics are well-written and the chorus is absolutely fantastic.

Following that ten-pointer of a number is the title-track, "The Armor of Ire", which features melodic riffing in a manner that actually draws my mind to the 8-bit Mega Man games, and I mean that in the absolutely best way possible. The fast riffing and tight drums are glued together by the drawn out vocal melodies, and there is a lot more going on in the background than what you notice at first listen. You hardly notice that five minutes have passed before the song is over, it's just that seamlessly put together.

"The Last King of Pictdom" is a bouncier track that opens with drummer (and multi-instrumentalist) Arthur Rizk pounding a marching beat on the snare before moving into a triplet-riff. The twin guitar melodies and triplet riffing actually makes me think about Thin Lizzy, especially when the lead guitar melodies after the final chorus kicks in. I believe that it also Arthur that deals out a fine guitar solo during the tracks climax.

Lo and behold! I am about to not encourage you to skip an instrumental interlude, which is my typical reaction to these kind of tracks. Instead I must admit that during my first listens to "The Armor of Ire" I wasn't even aware that they were there, because they are actually woven into the tracks as an integral part of the music instead of annoying interruptions. "Blood Ice" is an instrumental interlude done right and doesn't overstay its welcome in any way, and when listening to my vinyl record it serves as the intro to side B. It also features some interesting pieces of music instead of just a carpet of synthesizers that are supposed to "set the mood" before the next track.

The interlude moves into "The Cold Sword" without any interruption, a galloping affair with some Maiden-esque guitar leads, but which manages without becoming some sort of cheap rip-off. This is the song on the album that has the most drive to it, and Jason shows that he can have bit more of a roar to his voice from time to time.

After moving past the greatness of the opening track, "Invoker" quickly became my favorite song on the album. It's a very dynamic number, and I hope a given part of all of Eternal Champions live sets. Once again it has be mentioned that the lyrics are very well-written, as it oh so easy for this type of lyrics to become beyond cheesy. Instead they are captivating and interesting, and nowhere is it better demonstrated than here, where an assassin waits to strike at a summoning ritual before they raise the old gods of H.P. Lovecraft's mythos. It you're a fan of sword and sorcery, this will be right up your alley. The song switches between clean plucking verses and inventive riffing in the more intense parts. The chorus is among the greats, the final guitar solo though sounds like it could use a couple of more takes.

"Sing a Last Song for the Valdese" is the longest of the album, and accordingly epic and worthy of its six minutes. We finally are treated to some flashier bass parts (also performed by Arthur), a thing that I would gladly have heard more of this during the previous songs on the album. There's a lot things going on here. The band seems to have played around a bit with their song formula here instead of going for traditional verses and choruses, but in no way does it sound amiss. The track is in no way a contender to the opening, but no less epic either way and a fitting last song before we move on to the outro.

"Shade Gate" is a short instrumental outro with a simple, repeating, guitar melody and surprisingly features a quite from Skeletor in the Masters of the Universe movie from 1987. It fit's the overall tone of the album, but nothing that I listen to each time I give the album a spin. Instead I'm probably busy flipping the record over to start over from the beginning.

Arthur Rizk seems to be a jack of all trades as I found out that he is also responsible for the engineering, mixing and mastering. He's done a fine job with all of his undertakings here, with the album sounding warm, yet crisp here it needs to and not unnecessarily loud. In my natural fashion I would have liked the bass to be a bit louder in the mix during the regular riffing, but it manages to cut through well enough the times it does something out of the ordinary.

This album has an overall aura of being very honest and genuine. There's a lot of bands doing this style at the moment, but the dedication of Eternal Champion shines through in such a way that you know that they are the real deal. Believe me, I searched hard and long to find something point out that I wasn't entirely satisfied with, but beyond the intro and outro being somewhat skipable there is really nothing to complain about. "The Armor of Ire" feasts upon 8,2/10 nations blood.

Eternal Champion on Facebook
Eternal Champion on Bandcamp

No comments:

Post a Comment