Strident // Oath (From Chaos to Glory)
Rating: 2.0/5.0 —Cheeses H. Christ!!
Label: Unsigned
Websites: Facebook
Release Dates: Out Now

So apparently there’s this burgeoning metal scene in South Africa. How fucking cool is that? We already ran a review from scenesters Crow Black Sky, A Walk with the Wicked and Heathens and now we get the first proper self release from unsigned Cape Town heroes Strident. Playing what they describe as “epic South African power metal,” these gentlemen are out to show the rest of the world that true metal runs deep in the African earth. This is indeed power metal in its purest form and clearly influenced by the likes of Manowar and Rhapsody of Fire (together again, ain’t that sweet AMG?). Needless to say, with those guys as primary influences, you can expect things to get mighty cheesy real quick and that’s exactly how things go down here. Sporting an album cover suitable for the next Brutal Legend video game, their debut Oath (From Chaos to Glory) throws every power metal and true metal staple, stereotype and standard at you in a manic fury. It’s fun, funny and cringe worthy in equal measures and sets a new standard for the phrase “hugely over-the-top.” Whether you like it or not has a lot to do with your overall lactose tolerance and sense of humor.

Things get off to a rollickingly hilarious start with “Metal or Death” which is a song I can envision Manowar and Strident fighting for ownership of over a flaming pit of Jack Daniels and ale (to the death of course). Yes, it’s a song proclaiming the love of all things metal and all things true and talks of spreading the “metal seed.”  All this to the strains of a twinkling harpsichord and  oddly cartoonish, gruff vocals that sounds like a baby Cookie Monster. Somehow it works in a deranged and wacky way. It isn’t all that heavy despite the lyrics and message but it is memorable for sure. After that we get more Manowarisms with “Blood Rage”  and “Odin Be Our Guide” which both showcase improved clean singing and some respectable solos (but the harpsichord and baby monster voice still get in the way). Other tracks like “Sacred Oath” have a Freedom Call/Insania flavor to them with an extra serving of cheese over the top. Later there’s even back to back lighters-held- high power anthems “Chromatic Moonlament” (huh?) and “Homeward.” The ultimate highlight comes with “Power Metal From Space” which has to be heard to be believed.

Although several of the tracks end up working to one degree or another, certain others fall flat with a distinct thud (“Pirates” and especially “Undead Legion”). Throughout the album, the lyrics proudly defy being taken seriously and if one were to down a shot for every lyrical cliche like “hold the banner high” and “true metal” there would be a lot of regret and stomach pumping required worldwide. While this works for awhile, it gets challenging to put up with after a point. Likewise, those baby monster vocals just don’t work. The singer sounds convincing enough when going for a Helloween/Freedom Call style but when the gruff stuff comes in, it kills the song like Tankard kills beers. Additionally, the guitars seem overly subdued and muted throughout the entire album when they really need to be up front in the listener’s face. Instead, the harpsichordy keyboards are up there and all I could think of was some dude with a powered wig and knickers rocking out for the king at Versailles. Not a very metal image.

Rarely have I heard a band more blindly focused on fulfilling every metal cliche there ever was (not since Piledriver anyway) and for that, I proudly salute them. Oath packs more dairy than all of  Wisconsin and while amusing and listenable in turns, it’s clearly raw, embryonic and unpolished. These guys have some skills and with some funding and growth they may eventually rise higher in the power metal pantheon but right now they’re more squire than knight. Keep training good sirs, keep training and always drink from the chalice of steel. In moderation though.