Fellowship – The Saberlight Chronicles Review

I know that most of you have already eyed my score on this review, and have nearly broken your damn necks from the whiplash of rapidly scrolling up for answers. For many, this choice will come across as confusing and misguided, but as someone who’s listened to Fellowship’s self-titled EP on repeat for two years, it’s anything but. That EP might be the reason I survived the early pandemic days with my sanity intact. It’s a bottomless wellspring of joy, dominated by gorgeous melodies, exhilarating solos, and clever, heartwarming lyrical turns. On the strength of those three songs alone, Fellowship’s debut LP would have probably been my power metal album of the year. The fact that every song on the record is as good as or better than any song from the EP puts it in another class entirely. I’ve done a lot of cataloging and re-ranking of my favorite power metal releases in the past few weeks to confirm this, but no matter how I slice it, The Saberlight Chronicles always finds a spot on my top ten power metal releases. Not of the year, or of the decade. Ever.

The Saberlight Chronicles finds success not in turning the genre on its head, but in fusing the best aspects of the modern power metal scene into a potent, maximalist brew. Not as overbearingly bombastic as Twilight Force or as relentlessly fast as DragonForce, Fellowship borrows the prime elements from both bands to strike a precise balance of wonder and excess. What makes The Saberlight Chronicles so successful as an album, then, is that its songs feel completely distinct from one another while maintaining Fellowship’s overarching aesthetic. An outright speed fest (“Oak and Ash”), an Elton John-esque driving bop (“Scars and Shrapnel Wounds”), and a hymn-like bout of Wuthering Heights-inspired folk metal (“The Saint Beyond the River”) are just a handful of picks from the record’s bounty of unexpected turns. Because every single song is completely, utterly excellent while blazing its own distinct trail, The Saberlight Chronicles barely feels half of its hour length.

Fellowship would have a great record on their hands based on its novel songwriting merits alone, but what makes it timeless is its lyrical execution. While other power metal bands endlessly mine the “Eagle Fly Free” blueprint in the pursuit of shallow happiness, The Saberlight Chronicles is positivity manifest. As a concept album, it tells its story not as a literal unfolding of events, but through a vulnerable character study from the protagonist’s perspective. Our hero doubts their bravery, worth, and legacy in ways that are grounded and authentic to the human experience. By the end, they have resolved these doubts in triumphant fashion, through struggles and victories relayed in lyrics that feel more like literature. Passages like “Memories are brittle at their best / Preserve me through my sword and all the songs within my chest” expertly capture the essence of the genre, and make for an experience that is not only engaging, but achingly relatable.

These elements would not come together so successfully were their execution sloppy, and the production and performances of The Saberlight Chronicles are at the top of their class. Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, and countless other power metal bands didn’t hit “essential listening” status until three or more albums in; Fellowship nails it in one with one of the most professional and consistent power metal debuts I’ve ever heard. The symphonic elements are lush and cinematic without overpowering the proceedings, leaving plenty of guitar crunch and bass thrum to remind the listener that, yes, this is still a metal record at its core. While rhythm guitar work is typically pared back to make room for vocals (though there are exceptions such as the delightfully kinetic ascending riff in “The Hours of Wintertime”), Sam Browne and Brad Wosko’s solos are the most melodious and technical that one is likely to find outside of Galneryus and DragonForce. And those vocals – good god, those vocals – are delivered with aplomb by the distinctly charismatic and professional Matthew Corry. Some will undoubtedly prefer more grit in a singer, but Corry (who is also the sole lyricist) is the voice of Fellowship, and I can’t imagine a better fit for the material.

If The Saberlight Chronicles doesn’t make you want to bounce around and throw your fists in the air like a madman as Corry does in Fellowship’s music videos, then this record likely will not resonate. For many, it won’t; this is unabashedly joyous stuff that I imagine is outside the comfort zone of even some power metal fans. And I love every last second of it. Fellowship’s vocals, solos, and lyrics are among the absolute best to grace the genre in the last decade or so, and even outside all of that, the hooks and constructions of the individual songs ensure that The Saberlight Chronicles has single handedly packed my songs o’ the year list. I’ve listened to so much power metal in my life that even the genre’s greatest albums have me picking out obvious moments where other bands have done the same thing, but better. Not so here; The Saberlight Chronicles is a perfect record, and an instant power metal classic.1

Rating: 5.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Victor (Japan) | Scarlet Records Official | Bandcamp (Rest of the world)
Websites: fellowshipmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/FellowshipUK
Releases Dates: JP: 2022.07.13 | WW: 07.15.2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Report to HR for liquifying. – Steel
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