Crusade of Bards – Tales of Bards and Beasts Review

Hello, my name is Twelve. I am an addict. I use symphonic metal and Nightwish. I…wait a second. I’m not Twelve! Silly me. But I too enjoy symphonic metal a whole lot, perhaps too much. Even at its cheesiest it makes me unreasonably happy to listen as richly layered orchestrations mesh with distorted guitars and galloping double-bass kits. I especially love it when, like on the incredible Imaginaerum, the band is able to afford recording with a full-blown orchestra and choir—or at least when part of the symphonics come from actual instruments instead of digitally reconstructed simulations. It is this last feature that drew Spanish sextet Crusade of Bards to my attention, who employ a dedicated cello player (Mery “Deep” Red). Granted, that’s only one instrument out of many others which are surely fed through a keyboard, but it was enough to get me all worked up. Too bad their debut record, entitled Tales of Bards and Beasts, left me unsatisfied in the end.

If you have ever heard Leaves Eyes, you already know what to expect. Except instead of regaling with tales of Vikings and military conquest, Crusade of Bards sing about pirates and the monstrous denizens of the sea. Captain Eleanor Tenebre’s vocals are sweet and of the operatic persuasion, coupled occasionally by quasi-death-metal growling courtesy of Low Ed Silver. Guitarist Adrián “The Time Knitter” Carrero deals mainly in stock power chords and rapid chugging, always present behind a wall of symphonic grandiosity delivered by keyboardist Paolo “The Bard” Andreotti. And of course we have a smorgasbord of genre-standard gallops and double-bass runs generously applied by Jorge “You” Homobono. Luckily, an audible bass guitar, admirably wielded by Lara “Percia” Garrido, affords the heaviest passages some measure of genuine weight. Additionally, Mery and her cello steal the show consistently on Tales of Bards and Beasts, imbuing each track with a surprising amount of personality wherever they feature.

There is plenty of potential here, but you have to dig for it. Ignoring the unnecessary instrumental intro and the dull opener proper, third track “The Golden Vessel” stands as one of the album’s relative highlights. It’s kinda fun, paired with a pleasant accompaniment of stringed instruments, although the guitar solos are uninspired. Another highlight, save for one brief but miscalculated application of blast beats, “An Ocean Between Us – Part I – Chapter Twelve1 houses solid riffing and a cool chorus supporting the most dynamic orchestrations offered. The album’s admirably tight thirty-eight minute runtime also represents a significant departure from genre norms, and I hope it becomes Crusade of Bards’ trademark (along with that cello) in the future.

Elsewhere on Tales of Bards and Beasts myriad flaws and missteps abound. The two ballads on board—”An Ocean Between Us – Part II – Ulysses Cry” and “And So the Bards Sang”—are both sappy, forgettable stowaways save for one particularly odd moment. In “And So the Bards Sang” a male vocalist, in the process of singing the very first verse, emphasizes a single word, “stops,” so strongly it startles. I chuckle every time I hear it, completely disrupting the mood the song is trying to evoke. Adding insult to injury is the awful sea shanty “Pirates of the Night.” I believe that folksy power metal has its place, and when done right it can be a blast (for example, Nightwish’s “Last of the Wilds“), but “Pirates of the Night” is boring, with tepid riffing and a chorus that accentuates the weaknesses of Eleanor’s delicate tone. The same problem neuters the closing battle song “Gunpowder,” which would have been better suited to a gutsier vocalist.

When it comes to symphonic metal, a lot can go wrong. There are an ungodly number of pitfalls and trapdoors to navigate, and rarely does a band ever sidestep every one of them. Despite having some cool ideas, Crusade of Bards lack the right map to guide them through this booby-trapped genre. Vocals are too fragile; metallic instrumentation is competent, but wants for style and substance; and the songwriting is cheesy to a fault. But their adventure is just beginning, and there is plenty of time for growth. Safe journey, Crusade of Bards!

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride and Joy Music
Releases Worldwide: November 15th, 2019

Show 1 footnote

  1. I wanna know what happened to Chapters One through Eleven, thank you very much!
« »