When done right, true metal can be one of the most glorious musical experiences known to humanity. For that reason, I applaud Heroes of Vallentor for throwing their spiked gauntlets in the ring and trying their hand at an epic true metal opus entitled ‘Warriors Path Part I’ (these things always seem to require multiple installments, you know). Unfortunately, I fear that the Swedish quartet, led by the brothers Skoldmark, may have bitten off slightly more than they can chew.
The narrative setup is suitably pompous and grandiose, as the narrator in the intro tells us about the evil wizard Agranoth and our protagonist’s quest to defeat him by finding the Sword of Heroes and an amulet known as The Griffinheart. The album proceeds to tell the story of his quest. (Spoiler alert: In the last song, he finds the sword in a skeletal hand in the bushes. Don’t know about the amulet though.) Some will no doubt roll their eyes at the Dungeons & Dragons / Rhapsody of Fire heroic fantasy concept at work here. If you fall into that category, stop reading now (“wimps and posers, leave the hall” and all that) because Heroes of Vallentor hold nothing of interest for you. The rest of you know what to expect here: A huge dose of Manowar, considerable influences from German true metal mavens like Wizard, Rebellion, Majesty and Grave Digger (“Knights of Death” sounds more like Grave Digger than Grave Digger does), sound effects with galloping hooves and menacing voices talking about horses as black as a moonless night, and so on.
In places, ‘Warriors Path Part I’ feels like a crowning triumph. “The Questing Knights Vow” rides a great fast riff, a few gang-shouted lines and a compelling chorus to victory. The pulsing bass/drum groove anchoring “Vengeance” may sound awfully close to Manowar’s “Warriors of the World,” but the song is a catchy anthem that has audience singalong written all over it. “Lawgivers” is a satisfying double-bass driven romp with a killer harmony guitar part at the end. “We Will Fight with Courage” has a Running Wild-type guitar melody and a ripping solo section, again delivered at high velocity with a battle-ready chorus. Unfortunately, not all the songs are strong, and some don’t seem fully fleshed out. The instrumental track, “The Forlorn Watchman,” drags on and doesn’t really go anywhere except for the cool Steve Harris-influenced part in the middle. Vocalist Lars Skoldmark attempts high-pitched shrieks from time to time, but predominantly relies on a rough, raw clean voice reminiscent of Ironsword or Lonewolf. The problem is that Lars doesn’t quite have the necessary power or charisma, and many vocal lines seem awkward. And the narrative bits are clunky and heavy-handed. My hope is that by the time Part II inevitably rolls out, Heroes of Vallentor will have improved on these areas (bands like Majesty, Wizard and Skelator are living proof that true metal bands can ascend lofty heights even after stumbling out of the gate). For now, Part I is fun for what it is, but won’t earn Heroes of Vallentor a seat at the table with the aforementioned masters.
~ Review by Kit Ekman~