I’ll readily concede that most of what I listen to these days is terribly old-fashioned, with a pronounced emphasis on ‘80s-inspired traditional heavy metal and smaller chunks of ‘90s Euro-style power metal, old-school thrash and classic doom thrown in for good measure. But it’s really beneficial sometimes to take a small step out of your comfort zone and listen to somebody offering a slightly different take on the music you love. Enter Farseer. The quintet from Glasgow, Scotland has been kicking around for nine years, with a couple of EPs to their name. ‘Fall before the Dawn’ is the band’s debut full-length album, which they released themselves this spring. They call themselves “heavy/power metal” and cite everything from Blind Guardian to Symphony X to Ensiferum to Gamma Ray and Lost Horizon as influences, all of which are perceptible in their music.
Farseer are definitely a European power metal band; however, they are quite modern in their approach. The seven-string guitars of David Connolly and Jon Stewart are at the epicenter of the band’s sound. When their chunky low-end riffs are combined with the pummeling, lurching rhythm section and occasional atmospheric keys lurking in the background, the result is an almost Nevermore level of darkened heaviness. Ordinarily that kind of chugging downtuned style grates on my eardrums like fingernails on a chalkboard. But not this time. The difference is that Farseer have used those core elements as a backdrop, rather than as the be-all, end-all of their sound. Importantly, the band augment the pounding groove elements with copious amounts of melody in every song, courtesy of the Connolly/Stewart guitar tandem and vocalist Dave Bisset. The guitars are perpetually serving up melodic ear candy to spice up the songs, sometimes even to Andre Olbrich (Blind Guardian) extremes, and Bisset is a solid mid-range, tuneful shouter who occasionally brings to mind the likes of President Evil (Powergod), R.D. Liapakis (Mystic Prophecy, etc.) or even Lord Tim (Dungeon/Lord). What’s more, the songwriting is excellent throughout, emphasizing the catchy choruses while still making room for some more intricate, sophisticated passages where the players can really shine.
Thankfully, then, ‘Fall before the Dawn’ never sacrifices hooks for sheer heaviness, but instead balances both components quite well. If you took something like Gamma Ray or Nocturnal Rites at their heaviest, added a dose of Nevermore groove, and topped the whole package off with an adventurous sense of melody akin to the vocal lines on recent Iron Maiden output (check out the chorus of “Second Strike” and you’ll hear exactly what I’m talking about), you’d be in the ballpark for what Farseer are all about. It's a bit like what I think Virginian power metal masters Division are going for lately. But forget about labels and comparisons for the moment. ‘Fall before the Dawn’ is just well-written, well-performed melodic heavy metal with killer songs like “Nightmares Collide,” the epic title track, or infectious opener “Luck of the Joker.” It’s not hard to envision Farseer finding favor with the ProgPower USA audience because they expertly merge technical acumen with melodic sensibilities and musicality, without ever sounding retro, sort of placing them at the heavier end of the intersection of the power and prog metal styles. Given the skill and overall professionalism displayed on this album, I’m surprised that Farseer haven’t been snapped up by a bigger indie label. They deserve a shot at the title, I’d say. And as a palate-cleanser from the steady diet of bullet-belted denim’n’leather metal that dominates my listening habits, ‘Fall before the Dawn’ really hits the spot.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~