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Legendry - The Wizard and the Tower Keep Award winner

The Wizard and the Tower Keep
by Kira Schlechter at 19 November 2019, 12:51 PM

It’s a unique phenomenon of late and one that’s happened before, that of epic/power metal bands, heavily influenced by European traditions, coming from unexpected places in America – VISIGOTH, from Salt Lake City, BURNING SHADOWS, from Savage, MD, for instance. And from Pittsburgh in the past few years has come LEGENDRY, who bill themselves as carrying on “in the tradition of MANILLA ROAD, OMEN, AND CIRITH UNGOL” with nods to WISHBONE ASH, YES, and JETHRO TULL. Lofty comparisons indeed. They live up to them, by the way.

They’ve been quite prolific since their formation in 2015, releasing two albums, “Mists of Time” (2016) and “Dungeon Crawler” (2017), before their current effort, the terrific, “The Wizard and the Tower Keep.” After original bassist Choo left the band, remaining members Vidarr and Kicker recorded the album themselves before adding St. Clair. The album is based on a novelette of the same name Vidarr wrote; it was included in the anthology “Fierce Tales: Savage Lands,” published by Millhaven Press. Several songs on the previous albums depicted exploits of the main character, the unnamed Warrior, but this concept album is an entire story of one of his adventures, including his struggle against the wizard Vael.

The acoustic opener, “The Bard’s Tale,” is heavily influenced by Celtic music and Tull. Vidarr says in the bio that conceptually, the song is being sung by a bard as the Warrior enters a tavern in the fictional city of Ardona. It’s lovely and sparse and sad, set to a rollicking 6/8 time, and boasts some really adept mandolin work from Vidarr – that’s a hard instrument to master, and master it he does. Lyrically, it sets the scene, the bard introducing the story that will be told. Vidarr’s voice is evocative and resonant, but is mixed so that it echoes kind of oddly, a treatment that continues throughout.

Vindicator” is intended to catch listeners up on the story, and it does, telling the listener what the Warrior has been up to (“Journeyed through the wastelands,” “In the misty forests/I fought the beasts of legend there”). Set to a hyperdrive tempo, it’s nicely low-fi, reminiscent of something like “Painkiller.” LEGENDRY really gets going with the album’s middle section. The title track starts acoustically, with very proggy flute touches. The stunning chorus has a stellar arrangement, the Tull influence apparent. The last chorus modulates a bit and is really stirring, the instrumental outro long and lush, turning from orchestral to rocking with ease and dexterity. When it goes back to the chorus one last time, it’s just wow. Vidarr’s lyrics and storytelling are certainly capable, and he’s a capable singer as well, if nothing fancy. I just wish you could hear all of that more distinctly – I hope he’s not hiding himself in the mix because of any so-called “shortcomings,” because there’s no need.

The Lost Road” has a fantastic bass line throughout, sinister and eerie and dark, depicting the Warrior reflecting on his fate as he travels to and arrives at his destination. LEGENDRY are masters at catchy, memorable choruses and wonderful bridges, with guitars echoing the chorus melody and adding flourishes to it. The end gets all psychedelic, with heavy wah guitar effects and Hammond B3 organ (played by Vidarr’s wife Drea). Their instrumental portions are never boring – you can really sink your teeth into them because they’re so textured. “Sorcery’s Bane” has the Warrior reaching his destination, the Tower Keep of the title, and “encountering various ritual chambers devoted to different aspects of life on this distant planet he has traveled to,” as Vidarr says in the bio, the Warrior noting that his might – his sword – will defeat the magic in the end. Vidarr also said he listened to RUSH’S “Caress of Steel” while writing the novelette, and boy, is that apparent – the changing tempos and guitar tone of the chorus lead-in, a segment they return to like a touchstone, transitions into a sublime chorus laden with sweeping keyboards. Every time you hear that instrumental lead-in, you get that amazing payoff of a chorus – it reminds me of RAINBOW’s “Stargazer” in that way.

Behind the Summoner’s Seal” has a fat meaty groove and a simple but memorable melody. They prevail on one basic riff throughout until they mess with it and expand on it in the bridge, a well done, clever touch. Vidarr does his best Ozzy impression on this one. The closer, “Earthwarrior,” is that epic final showdown between the two characters, where they introduce themselves to each other and boast of their credentials and might (“I am the wizard of a thousand years/No wraith, no warlord shall break my spell” and “I am the warrior of all space and time/Demonic guardians lay slain at my feet”).

It starts with a shambling, proggy groove to start, with plenty of organ and more wah guitar – they use that heavily, but it serves a purpose, giving everything that nice spacey quality. ”The Realization” section is expansive and melodic, more contemplative and less urgent than the opening “The Confrontation” portion. Everything segues very nicely into a reprise of “The Bard’s Tale” to wrap things up, and this is excellently done. Vidarr’s voice is weary and reflective, and it’s all meticulously arranged and glorious – how he subtly changes the melody in the final chorus is just brilliant. It’s funny that the shorter tracks here are somewhat less memorable than the longer, more epic ones; they almost serve as transitions in some way. It’s those big, intricate tracks – where the band really shines – that make the most impact and stay with you, and stay with you they do. This is a top release of the year.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 7


5 Star Rating

1. The Bard’s Tale
2. Vindicator
3. The Wizard and the Tower Keep
4. The Lost Road
5. Sorcery’s Bane
6. Behind the Summoner’s Seal
7. Earthwarrior
Vidarr - Guitar, Vocals, Mellotron, Mandolin, Swords
Evil St. Clair - Bass, Backing Vocals, Battle Axes
Kicker - Drums, Percussion, Necromancy
Record Label: High Roller Records


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Edited 10 July 2020

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