Vandor – On a Moonlit Night Review

Two years ago, I touted Swedish power metal outfit Vandor as one of the most promising new acts in the genre, if for no other reason than the fact that their production aesthetics were orders of magnitude above the standard. To this day, In the Land of Vandor remains one of the best-sounding modern power metal albums I’ve ever heard. The bass shoved itself to the forefront and the vocalist took a central position, only occasionally weaving toward the front when he needed to really gnash his teeth, resulting in a record that sounded legitimately powerful. Uneven songwriting and iffy vocals held it back, but I was fairly confident they could rectify those issues with time. Let’s see how they’ve done!

To be frank, I’m mightily impressed with the progress¬†Vandor made between albums one and two. Starting with what hasn’t changed, the production of On a Moonlit Night is sublime to say the least. Cleaner than the last one but just as well balanced and richly adorned with natural tones and well-implemented reverb, the new album is an absolute joy to hear. Additionally, the uplifting jubilance in all performances remains a fixture of Vandor’s sound, which I absolutely love because it makes even the heaviest cuts feel like a frolic. As if taking my past criticisms to heart, everything that I wanted to see improve since the first outing has, almost to a tee. The choruses soar triumphant and vocalist Vide Bjerde loosened up considerably, striking incredibly high notes with professional consistency.

After an absolutely worthless intro, opener proper “Mountains of Avagale” hits hard with an emotive set of verses and guitar leads, immediately revealing 2021’s Vandor to be an exponentially upgraded version of their past self. “River of Life” and “Endless Sea” ride white waters and brave storms with all of the verve of any seafaring crew worth their salt. Smartly positioned near the album’s midpoint, “Fate of Eltoria” showcases exuberant guitar work, boisterous bass soloing and festive drumming to kick the back half of this hour-long adventure straight into the redline. As is what I hope to be this band’s tradition, the buildup from the first three quarters of On a Moonlit Night culminates in a massive eighteen-minute epic, “The Sword to End All Wars.” Just as on their debut, this opus turns out to be one of my favorite tracks from the album, feeling as righteous as its song-title-of-the-year worthy name implies. They even throw some proggy, side-stepping riffs into the mix, evoking the fancy footwork of highly trained sword fighters in the heat of battle.

Vandor is still quite young, so even though this new installment represents a marked improvement over their previous work, there’s room for further growth. Musically, the record feels complete and well-composed, but I think cutting out “On a Moonlit Night” and replacing it with the bonus track “Enter Twilight,” then reassigning “The Sword to End All Wars” as the closer would wrap the record up in a much tighter bow.1 That bonus track is one of the best songs on the album, too, so the simple fact that it’s given the Pluto demotion on the listing infuriates me to an irrational degree. Furthermore, as much as the vocals improved, there are still a couple of high notes that seem strained even if they are on key (“Endless Sea” showcases this issue most). Bjerde’s vocal tone is also an acquired taste, an unconventional combo of full-throated and slightly reedy. I like it, personally, but some won’t. Then again, the dude’s only 23, so there’s still lots of time to develop further depth.

I can’t overstate how happy I am to see how well Vandor are doing in the oversaturated field of power metal. They provide so much heart and vitality to a genre rife with limp noodling that it’s impossible not to root for them. The fact that they are legitimately good at what they do on top of that only lights me up even brighter. On a Moonlit Night might not convert any genre newcomers, but it’s a clear indication that Vandor are just getting started. Long story short, this is the way modern power metal should be written, performed and produced. Prove me wrong.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kb/s mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 16th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. I tested this theory at the time of writing, and can confirm that these rearrangements work beautifully.
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