Armored Dawn - Barbarians in Black

Armored Dawn Barbarians in Black cover
Armored Dawn
Barbarians in Black
AFM Records
While I’ve long considered Viking inspired power metal a relative hit-or-miss affair, rest assured São Paulo’s Armored Dawn has truly hit Thor’s hammer on the nail with its sophomore full-length, “Barbarians in Black”, released via AMF Records and comprised of ten rampant and raw, stiff-upper lipped face smashers averaging an oh-so-fortuitous four minutes each.
The Brazilian sextet throws down hard from the get-go with the atmospheric, choir chanted and rapidly revving opener, “Beware of the Dragon”, while never letting up on its sulfurously taut and incrementally driving musicianship, courtesy of Tiago de Moura and Timo Kaarkoski’s twin-guitar barrage of tight as Hell, doubly layered and oft triplet based riffs, as well as piercing leads which fly through the mist like so many fired arrows, whilst the battery made up of Fernando Giovannetti and Rodrigo Oliveira incessantly lays down a stoically plastering arrangement of thick, menacing bass lines complimenting stone-cold, relentless blast beats and wryly culminating fills. Perched at the helm of this stellar cast, front man Eduardo Parras delivers verse after verse of powerful as well as concise lower-mid ranged vocals yet spectacularly shines on the choruses, which are often backed by his equally enthused cohorts, such as on the ghostly and mesmerizing masterpiece, which is “Bloodstone”, a track I simply can’t get enough of, along with the somewhat Dream Troll-ish “Eyes Behind the Crow” and stocked n’ locked, cocked at full bore revolutionary pummel-er which is “Survivor”.
At this point, I need to emphasize just how magniloquent and transcendental Rafael Agostino’s synth work is, whether he’s daintily but poignantly setting the tone for “Beware of the Dragon” (its majestic flair and crotch-punching rhythm readily trumps its pedestrian title), “Unbreakable” – which features a rather uplifting, xylophone sounding intro – and the album’s token placating waltz/power ballad, “Sail Away”, or simply providing ethereal accompaniment to pure mind-grinders like “Gods of Metal”, as well as the shit-kicking battle anthem – fill the cauldrons with boiling oil! – and high riding titular closer, not to mention the aforementioned highlights. In all earnestness, every song is killer!
Nevertheless, as implied, I’m absolutely enthralled by the cryptically eerie and wistful keys, commanding chorus, as well as kick-ass, surging pre-bridge to “Bloodstone”, which starts one and half minutes in before the succeeding echoing verses crank up the suspense, with super slick synths in tow followed by a most fluid and bedazzling solo section prior to a gripping return to form/evocative keyboard wind-down. As if the haughty, if not heavenly, narrative chants, trampling beats and soulful leads of “Unbreakable” aren’t enough to assuage the most hardened power metal fan’s yearnings, “Eyes Behind the Crow” slowly unfolds its blackened wings before duly taking off i.e. launching into a harried and razor-sharp groove laden with said stunning keys as well as uncharacteristic but most welcome sizzling pentatonic lead flourishes. On this note, the guitar solos are, for the most part, minor-keyed and combustive, while the already speedy riffs at times dramatically pick up the pace, thus creating a live wire tension. This is likely why I dig “Survivor” so much; its halcyon peaking riff work makes me feel like I’m wedged within a cannon, just waiting to be catapulted/flung over the castle wall! In fact, its short, albeit flaming solo serves as the lit fuse which permits such flight of fancy.
Man, there’s so much wicked power metal spanning the globe right now it’s not even funny. Whether you’re treading lightly around the genre or in deep up to your neck, I highly recommend Armored Dawn’s “Barbarians in Black”, as well as the latest by Almanac, Niviane, NoveReign and Thaurorod. Dig ‘em! (or else!)…