Legionnaire – Dawn of Genesis

I’ve been watching this band for a couple of years now waiting for this to come out- though their demos were a bit sloppy, the sheer potential that I saw for a great album merited periodic checkups to see when it was coming, and Legionnaire have not disappointed. The classic sounds of USPM groups and related bands are some of my favorites, and based on my preferences, Dawn of Genesis almost feels tailor made for me; massive hooks and leads hearkening to Slough Feg and Brocas Helm tie in with the speedy rhythms of Liege Lord or early European power metal groups such as Scanner, and only rarely do the influences become specific enough to a particular song or album to become noticeable. Big harmonized leads and rousing gallops intertwine in a familiar way, and vocalist/guitarist Aku Tienssuu’s powerful voice croons over the instruments with enough authenticity and barbaric charm to win over anyone familiar enough with heavy metal to ignore that he’s (quite intentionally) less pristine than some listeners are used to.

In the end, a band like Legionnaire is as firmly nostalgic as can be- heavy metal to the bones, and gloriously unashamed of it. Half of the tracks start off with the catchy dual leads that countless bands have used as their bread and butter, and at times, it feels like as many rhythms are variations on gallops as not, but none of the nostalgia harms the album for me. There are plenty of newer heavy metal bands that dip a bit too closely to the sounds of the legends that they emulate, detracting from the music via familiarity, but as much as I can hear my favorite bands in Dawn of Genesis, I hear them in the same way that I hear lesser known peers rather than in the same way I do a clone. Each time I listen to the album, I revel in the searing love for heavy metal that Legionnaire want to share so badly with the world. Though I haven’t been particularly impressed with a lot of the recent heavy metal and speed metal coming from Finland, this album and the recent debut release from countrymen Chevalier (who I understand are friendly with Legionnaire, with the two having played shows together) prove that the country is still producing incredible heavy metal.

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Chevalier – A Call To Arms

Good raw speed metal  has been popping up more and more in the last few years, but this is certainly one of the best of the bunch that I’ve heard recently. Chevalier hearken back to many of my favorite classic USPM and international (particularly French) speed metal bands while forging their own sound entirely with big melodies, fast rhythms (with a few slower points that just make the rest of A Call To Arms hit that much harder), and a constant pounding drum beat in the background. Recorded in a rehearsal room, the “demo’s” lack of polish is stunningly charming, and makes for an interesting offset to the tightness of the entire performances, and speaks very, very deeply to my taste in heavy and speed metal.

This is a real guitarist’s album to me, with every song being chock full of tight solos that come in and out of the performance, popping up and then vanishing just as quickly, and with unexpected leads coming in and out of the rhythms constantly. Sometimes everything but the guitars drop out entirely, leaving only powerful and consciously medieval sounding leads to enrapture listeners, and every careful listen reveals new guitar parts that I missed on the previous listen. Despite the central focus on guitarwork, other aspects are far from ignored- the drumming is extremely competent, and the bass is audible and well done. There are some fantastic grooves where the two lock in together to great effect, and vocalist Emma Grönqvist fills everything out wonderfully from her place at the backseat of the recording; the choice to keep her mixed somewhat to the bottom of the mix both makes for a really cool effect and keeps her from overwhelming the absolutely fantastic riffing that makes the release so damn cool. There really aren’t any choruses in the traditional sense of the word, and that’s also a cool point to me- the whole thing is a showcase of unrelenting, uncompromising prowess, a love letter to speed metal and to heavy metal that gives me the shivers. I’m very much looking forward to more material, and hoping that the band’s plan of releasing the demo on vinyl at some point is realized. Until then, I’ll wait eagerly for the tape version to come out.

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