Ancient Bards – “Origine (The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2)” (Limb Music)
Battle Helm Rating
This Italian power / symphonic metal band have been around since 2006, formed by keyboardist / orchestrator Daniele Mazza, who began The Black Crystal Sword Saga on their initial 5 track demo. Steadfast in his quest, Ancient Bards has risen over the years to become a name across Europe and Japan, playing alongside bands like Korpiklaani, Eluveitie, Turisas, and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody as well as festivals like Wacken, Made of Metal and Female Voice Metal Festival – to name just a few! While there have been the inevitable line up changes, Ancient Bards has now built a truly talented line up that now includes stellar soprano vocalist Sara Squadrani, whose credentials include Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s metal opera project Ayreon, featuring Marko Hietala (Nightwish), Rick Wakeman (Yes), Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson) and Keith Emerson (ELP). With all this momentum gathering over the years, this crowdfunded 4th album is no mere continuation of the band’s original saga, but nothing short of spectacular! Thanks to the superb musicianship of the band as a whole, the versatility of styles and ranges across the 10 tracks here is truly impressive, and really pushes the bar especially in their native Italy, where I’m sure a few jaws will be dropping. Whether its tender, folk driven pieces or bombastic fire and operatic drama, this line up of Ancient Bards is more than able to handle it – and in such fine style – making this nothing short of musical beauty thanks to the brilliance of the compositions. Whether its the folk majesty of ‘Fantasy’s Wings’ led by Squadrani’s serene vocals backed by subtle orchestrations, the strong rock element adds both fire and passion making the song deep with a catchy chorus that just soaks through your soul as it builds epically through powerful choirs, Mazza’s gripping keyboard melodies and Simone Bertozzi’s astounding guitars (and growls elsewhere). Even more moving is the tender ‘Light’, with its gentle orchestrals and keys, before Squadrani shows her measure by bringing in both the power and passion, hitting the heart so effectively through the irresistible chorus, which admittedly is more AOR than metal, but what the heck, it’s so stirring especially when those bombastic choirs get going, building climatically accompanied by Bertozzi’s beautiful guitar once again. Firing in the power metal on ‘Titanism’ with its double bass drum work and fast strings, the massive operatic choirs made up of contrasting male / female vocals add in the drama while Squadrani’s angelic soul sits atop it all, danced around by Bertozzi’s mesmerising neo classical guitar work. An incredible release by all accounts, let the world know that Ancient Bards have well and truly arrived!