Bards of Valor, a heavy rock and folk metal band from Enschede, have released their latest album Aegir’s Wrath during a live show last weekend. Let’s dive into the tale of Vikings and Dragons together as we listen to their 43 minutes of new music.
Bards of Valor
The Bards of Valor, as the name suggests, find their creative inspiration in the world of storytelling. Originating in Enschede eight years ago, the band released their debut album “A Tale of Hope & Ruin’ in 2019. This album highlights the band’s passion for stories, crafting a concept album centered around the defense of a harbor town. While folk metal is a main inspiration for their music, Bards of Valor fuse elements of traditional heavy rock, heavy metal, and folk, creating a diverse and captivating sound. Let’s dive into their latest album, Aegir’s Wrath.
About the Album
First: this album is a clear step up from the band’s debut in terms of track quality, both in songwriting and recording. The instruments are clear and balanced, with the vocals effectively piercing through the mix. Although I’m not a fan of auto-tuning, there are instances where slight vocal tuning could have improved certain tracks. The segments where the vocalist and other band members shout along are great and the vocal harmonies in those parts really add to the party vibe. However, some vocal melodies appear to lack confidence, and the pitch isn’t always on point.
The album starts off slowly with Maelstrom of Worlds with some clean guitars and vocal harmonies. Even though this first track wasn’t what I expected, right away we’re transported to another world. Literally, if we listen closely to the lyrics. The lyrics are clearly pronounced but lack a bit of complexity for me.
After the intro track, we’ve arrived in a fantasy world with the title track Aegir’s Wrath. We follow a bunch of Vikings on their adventures. Musically, the album is a mix of more heavy metal / heavy rock-inspired tracks versus tracks that take their inspiration from folk metal bands like Heidevolk.
Onwards and upwards
Marooned in Time is by far my favorite track of this album. Mainly because of the vocal melody, which has that typical folk vibe. The track starts out with a scarce instrumentation and focus on the vocals, that stand out well on this track. After the first verse, the track dives into a folk metal party, to turn into an Ensiferum-like chorus. “Marooned in time on this Island of madness” is a great line to shout along and the fact that it sticks in your mind means that the band has written a good hook.
Continuing on with Iron Dragon, a straight-up heavy rock track about a steel dragon. Queen of the Skies continues on that path and takes it even further, kicking up the energy. With Wayfarers Prayers the Vikings try to travel back home again. This heavy metal track showcases the vocalist’s depth of tone. The track has some nice guitar solos and vocal harmonies, and is an easy to listen to heavy metal track.
We’re not home yet though. By My Command is probably the darkest track on the album. After we’ve conquered the challenges though, it’s finally time to head home with Homeward. This is a complete opposite of By My Command musically as well, as it’s a lot more positive track. The vocal lines actually remind me of Metallica and in some weird way, the Police (because of the pushy vocals probably).
The album ends in a similar way that it started, with acapella vocals that immediately remind me of The Hobbit. Life well lived is a worthy conclusion of this concept album. They could have taken it further even, cause I think that the acapella part is great.
What Aegir’s Wrath does well, is telling us an epic fantasy story. As a concept album, Aegir’s Wrath is a nice collection of songs, that make sense as a whole. However, I’m not sold on this album. It might be totally my personal preference, but I’m really not a big fan of the Metallica-like vocals. I get that they fit the genre, but to me, the voice sounds too pushed in a lot of the parts. In the parts where it’s either more gritty or layered with additional harmonies, I think the vocals sound a lot nicer. And while it’s great that the lyrics are clearly pronounced, in some tracks, I think the lyrics are either too simple or don’t flow the music that well. Besides these general points of criticism, Marooned in Time is by far my favorite track of the album and a track that has ended up in my personal playlist because of that as well. I hope the band will continue more in this direction for the coming tracks. I would definitely enjoy more of that!
Maelstrom of Worlds
Marooned in Time
Queen of the Skies
By My Command
Life well Lived