As part of Stormspell Records’ long-awaited June 2017 batch of new releases, Serbia’s Claymorean are poised to unleash their second album under that name, the ominously titled Sounds from a Dying World. Claymorean rose from the ashes of symphonic power metal band Claymore in 2014. If the name change seems confusing, let’s demystify that from the outset. The core of the band – namely guitarist / primary writer Vladimir Garcevic, singer Dejana Garcevic, and bassist Goran Garcevic – remained intact. What shifted markedly was the band’s musical direction. Whereas Claymore had a symphonic bent with abundant swirling keyboards and a propensity for Nightwish-type vocals, Claymorean are squarely in the old-school epic metal realm, fueled by towering guitar riffs and chest-beating melodies, with Dejana (same singer, remarkably enough) opting for a much more traditional rock/metal approach to her lead vocals. To be sure, there’s still a touch of European power metal in Claymorean’s music, perhaps a hint of the old Blind Guardian or Running Wild spirit to augment all the mighty early Manowar / Doomsword / Battleroar feeling. To know where Claymorean’s metal heart lies, one need only examine their decision to cover Cloven Hoof on this album and Manilla Road on its predecessor. The English-language lyrics (which are quite well written, especially considering the band’s Eastern European orientation) are steeped in the likes of Moorcock, Howard, Lovecraft, Dante, and mythology. You get the idea: This is staunch, resolute epic metal all the way.
Straight out of the gate, Claymorean deliver a powerful blow in the form of opener “The Road to Damnation,” which features crushing, thick riffing and a fist-in-the-air chorus, with Dejana confidently decreeing, “I am the ruler of Hell, queen of all souls.” The haunting melody in the suitably lumbering “Old Mountain” had me thinking Viking-era Bathory all the way, which is a good thing. The songwriting on Sounds from a Dying World is high-quality from top to bottom, featuring mighty riffs, compelling melodies and interesting, varied arrangements that don’t fall into the epic metal trap of being too long for their own good (most songs hover around the five-minute mark). My favorite tunes on offer are the super-catchy “Cimmeria,” where the song is given just enough room to breathe under the Manowar power chords and the chorus shines, as well as the uptempo monster “Rage of the White Wolf,” with an outstanding guitar solo courtesy of Urosh Kovacevic. There’s even a ponderous Candlemass / Sabbath -inspired doom number, “Blackest Void,” with Iommi worship permeating each malevolent string-bending note. The icing on the cake is the album-closing cover version of Cloven Hoof’s classic “Astral Rider,” from the classic A Sultan’s Ransom album. Claymorean’s rousing take on “Astral Rider” is quite worthy and mostly faithful to the original. More bands should cover Cloven Hoof! Kudos to Claymorean for venturing off the well-beaten path of cover song choices to select this absolute gem.
The only potential snag for some listeners may be vocalist Dejana Garcevic. Don’t get me wrong: she does a fine job, and sings with great conviction and power throughout this album, reminding me generally of the likes of Elisa Martin (ex-Dark Moor) and Michela D’Orlando (Power Symphony). As you might expect, however, Dejana sings with a fairly thick accent, and her vocals are so upfront that it’s hard to overlook. There’s also a disconcerting “brassy” quality to her voice at times, when she tries to inject extra power or snarling into her voice at the expense of tunefulness, sort of like what Nina Osegueda (A Sound of Thunder) or the singer from Hysterica is prone to do on occasion. Again, I have no problem with Dejana’s performance, but she is best when she dials it back just a bit and sticks to her comfort zone. I know some of you are very picky with vocals, especially female vocals, so your mileage may vary.
Without a doubt, Sounds from a Dying World is an impressive work that should be favorably received by epic metal fans worldwide. What’s more, the band just recently played their first show under the name Claymorean, in an opening slot for the mighty Ross the Boss. Would love to see this band on the festival circuit, where these songs would surely go down a storm.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~