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Vatican - March Of The Kings Award winner

Vatican
March Of The Kings
by Daniel Stefanov at 23 May 2017, 4:22 AM

It all began with the writing of the great albums. Three were made by the Power Metal bands - immortal, wisest and fairest of all genres. Seven - by the True Heavy Metal bands, great motorcycle riders and drinkers of beer. And nine, nine albums of greatness were made by the Speed/Thrash bands, who above all else desired to Seek and Destroy. But they were all of them deceived. For another album was made. Deep in the land of United States, in the fires of the 80's, the forgotten band VATICAN recorded in secret… a masterpiece. And Lord of the Rings quotes aside, boy, does it live up to the hype! There are many surprises that "March of the Kings" holds for the unsuspecting listener. First off, for those unfamiliar with the band - their name, the name of the album, and the cover art may create the false impression that this is some MANOWAR - SABATON - HAMMERFALL - TWO STEPS FROM HELL hybrid that sings of glory, holy righteousness, the power of steel, and the great epicness of medieval battle in the name of God Almighty.

But the album does not let you hold on to your expectations and prejudices for long, the sweeping intro to the powerhouse that is "Alive to the Grave" has the capacity to break through and smash to pieces whatever mental image you had of what this album was supposed to be. The song does zero-to-sixty in about a nanosecond, as if there was supposed to be an intro of sorts, that was just not included on the disc for some reason. The vocals are clean and powerful, with a slight echo, adding to the genuine 80's feel of the sound.  "Deadly Wind" is a more modern-sounding composition that quickly reminds the listener that even the new impressions, formed after "Alive to the Grave" are probably wrong, and the only way to listen to this album is with an entirely open mind. And in awe. Just like the opener, "Deadly Wind" sets a fast tempo, dominated by stellar guitar playing and a brilliant rhythm section, although I personally would have loved to hear even more prominent drums.

 "Running" carries an early 80's rock'n'roll groove in a heavy metal setting, reminding me of pre-"Defenders of the Faith" JUDAS PRIEST for some reason. Even though this is in itself a bit surprising, it also serves to enhance the surprise of what comes next - "Mean Streak" has one of the most promising starts I've heard in a song. Thirty seconds in, I already had the feeling that this would be the centerpiece of the album. It is a slower, more melodic, and yet menacing, heavyset song, with memorable lyrics, that gives a vibe of epicness. To keep with the previous association, it is VATICAN's improved "Heavy Duty", and could easily be the best track of the release, had it not be the awkwardness of its finale. I don't know, maybe there's something I'm missing, some running gag in the rock and metal community that makes bands stretch the endings of their songs to discomforting lengths, with repeating words, or even worse - generic screaming or noises. In this case, the song is trying to end for a full minute. That's a full minute of repeating a four-second segment. The endings of "July Morning" and "Don't Cry" come to mind. It's something that literally nobody wants. It's like ten-minute bass solos - not needed on this Earth! Am I missing something?

"Falling from Grace" is perhaps one of the filler songs on the album, ironic in the nature that it has the quality of most other bands' best songs. It is powerful, showcasing great contrast and range, and beyond decent vocals. The chorus is perhaps a bit uninspired, but that is easily compensated by the memorable verses and overall richness of sound. "Waysted" follows the formula of rich, powerful sound with dominating rhythm section and virtuoso guitarwork, while also featuring an original and memorable chorus. It is really exhausting writing nothing but superlatives, but in the list of songs to be played on my funeral, this easily makes Top10, and not only for the excellently fitting title.

"Fear's Garden" is another proof that should VATICAN make a compilation of B-siders, it could easily blow out of the water most other heavy metal bands. It is a bit chaotic track, but the snarling at some places, while soaring at other places vocals, make it pleasant to listen to in preparation for the other peak of the album - "Di a Heart Attack". It is an awkward spelling, I know. I still have no idea what this song is about, aside from heart attacks, apparently. But it is fast, rhythmic, hard and evil, shows great range, and is one of the most memorable pieces of the album. "Corruption" is the last actual song on the release, bringing forth the atmosphere of early thrash in a bit slower and heavier setting. It is a short, and not wholly memorable or groundbreaking closer, but it is very pleasant to listen to. It gives the feeling of completeness, and the stellar instrumental that follows, "Opus #9", is like the end credits of a good movie.

"March of the Kings" is definitely an album I will remember and listen to regularly. It has exactly the right amounts of early thrash, power and genuine heavy metal. I don't know if this album was recorded in the 80's and released now, like some people on the Internet claimed, or written in the 80's and recorded now, like others expostulated, but in both cases the production is perfect. It either was mixed and mastered in a way that made an 80's recording sound deep and rich for modern standards, or it was edited in a way to give a modern recording just the right amount of 80's feel, without diminishing the quality. The vocals are brilliant, powerful, show impressive range, and Brian's voice supplements the atmosphere of the music perfectly. The songwriting is stellar to the point that even the least original and least inspired moments sound like any other band would be proud to have them in their catalogue. I personally am tempted to give this album a perfect score. It has come to me. The one album. It will be an heirloom of my music collection. All those who follow in my bloodline shall be bound and forced to listen to it. It is precious to me. However, as I have to be objective, I have to account for people having worse taste than mine, and hence I will place it at nine. "Phantom Antichrist" also got a nine, and only a mad man would score anything higher than that!


Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Alive to the Grave
2. Deadly Wind
3. Runnin'
4. Mean Streak
5. Falling from Grace
6. Waysted
7. Fears Garden
8. Di a Heart Attack
9. Corruption
10. Opus #9
Lineup:
Brain McNasty - Bass, Vocals
Vince Vatican - Guitar
Vic Gribouski - Drums
Record Label: Pure Steel Records
     


Rating

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Edited 03 December 2022
 

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