|Musical Style: Epic Metal||Produced By: Jurgen Hegewald|
|Record Label: No Remorse||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 21||Rating: No Quote|
You cannot help but love a band named Lordian Guard. Similar to Sacred Warrior, Majestic Vanguard and Veni Domine, a great name hints of a bands persona. In this scenario, it suggests of something symphonic, Gothic and orchestral that is apocalyptic and medieval at the same time. In other words it represents a fitting name for an epic metal band, one with the grandiose and theatrical qualities to stand out from the crowd and create a sound uniquely its own.
Lordian Guard came together in the mid-nineties as the solo endeavor of William J. Tsamis, founder and guitarist of the renowned eighties classic metal band Warlord. Two Lordian Guard albums were released on Germany’s Hellion Records, Lordian Guard (1995) and Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God (1997), with Tsamis’ wife Vidonne Sayre-Riemenschneider on lead vocals. Much of the Lordian Guard material started as either Warlord demos (and later re-recorded for the 2002 Warlord comeback album Rising Out Of The Ashes) or written for the My Name Is Man project, a 75 minute music video concept based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost that never came to fruition.
Musically, Lordian Guard for the most part picks up where Warlord left off, albeit not consistently as heavy. Guitars are toned down in comparison, while keyboards and acoustic guitar play more prominent roles. Still, many of the signature aspects to Warlord can be found in Lordian Guard in the form of epic song structures, deep melodies, European flavorings and philosophical lyrics (with subject matters ranging from mythology to history to science fiction to the Book of Revelation and End Times themes). If you enjoy Warlord you will undoubtedly also enjoy Lordian Guard.
What I hear in Lordian Guard is metal composed with the Middle Ages in mind. More specifically a foundation of epic metal and classical, renaissance and Byzantine music with lyrics written in 16th century Gothic poetic form that document the classic battle between good and evil. It adds up to what amounts “medieval metal” in which the classical comes face to face with the epic to create a multifarious sound which this reviewer has rarely if ever encountered before.
Initially my impression of Lordian Guard was far from positive. I purchased Lordian Guard and Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God back in the day and - much to my great loss - shelved them after only a couple of listens. Production I found disappointing and vocals uneven. The “apocalyptic good verses evil epic metal concept”, at the same time, went over my head.
My opinion, however, changed dramatically on second listen. An early 2013 re-issue of both albums on No Remorse Records under the title Anthology, re-mastered and released as a two CD set with new album artwork and bonus material in the form of the “Behold A Pale Horse” single, “Invaders” (advance mix), ballad “Lady Vidonne” and the Lordian Winds acoustic demos (recorded with Warlord vocalist Rick Anderson), blew me away.
After giving the Lordian Guard material the time and attention it deserves, I came to embrace the profound songwriting, without a doubt epic and classically influences but also understated in terms of its progressive and theatrical abilities. Being a fan of high fantasy, the apocalyptic nature to the songwriting captured my imagination as did the medieval flair throughout. Such a shame that I initially dismissed the group in that songs such as “Lost Archangel”, “Revelation XIX”, “Golgotha”, “Behold A Pale Horse”, “Stygian Passage” and “Sinner In The Hands Of An Angry God” are awesome and make you wish Tsamis would re-record them professionally (or finish the My Name Is Man Project in which I believe they can trace their inception).
Speaking of which, the original versions to Lordian Guard and Sinners… had an “under-produced” demo-like feel. The re-mastering cleans things up significantly. The sound here is not on the same level as Rising Out Of The Ashes, but bass now stands out further, while Tsamis’ signature guitar work, intricate and technical in form from a riff and soloing standpoint but also rich in harmonies and melodies, come across that much better defined. Yes, a drum machine was used, but the low end has been bolstered to more than compensate.
I have also warmed up to the vocals of Vidonne Sayre-Riemenschneider. No, she might not bring the range of Warlord vocalists Joacim Cans and Rick Anderson but puts in an exemplary performance nonetheless. In terms of comparison, she sings in a lower register than many female vocalists, lending an almost Gothic timbre as a result of her deep and resonant attributes. And the few times she provides narration it fails to come across cheesy but rather believable due to fitting the dramatic nature of the music at hand.
I best identify with the Lordian Guard material as “musical movements” or more specifically dramatic and theatrical interpretations of the subject at hand. This would be the best way to describe Lordian Guard opening tracks “Lost Archangel” and “Revelation XIX”.
The former plays up an equal joining of melody and the progressive, opening to narration from Revelation 12 prior to moving its distance to teeming guitar harmonies and the sublime pomp and splendor to match. Lyrics leave little doubt as to the fate of the “Lost Archangel”:
The adversary of the Lord
He wields his famines and his wars
The adversary will be slain
Christ the King will ever reign!
Latter also features a technical milieu, maintaining the guitar harmony penchant but heavier in form and with an anthem-like mentality prevailing. Subject matter is also self-explanatory:
And the heavens will roar
The thunders will cry
Who can survive, when the
Sword of the Lord
Breaks through the sky…
The ensuing three, “My Name Is Man”, “Winds Of Thor” and “War In Heaven”, were re-recorded for Rising Out Of The Ashes.
The Lordian Guard version of “My Name Is Man” is acoustically driven with keyboards highlighting the backdrop, giving rise to an ethereal vibe in the process, while on “Winds Of Thor” guitars play the more forthright role, although not to quite the same extent as the Warlord rendering. “War In Heaven” gives rise to the same type of majesty and grandeur as the ROOTA rendering in capturing the striking spiritual warfare struggle to perfection (and ranking within my all time top five songs as a result).
Closing Lordian Guard track “In Peace He Comes Again” represents a calm and tranquil ballad playing up a Christmas theme lyrically:
It’s Christmas time again
Our Christ is born again
Joy to all the earth
And good will towards men
Christ the Lord…
In Peace He Comes Again
It also represents the best vocal performance from Vidonne. When smoothing things out, she reminds somewhat of Nancy Jo Mann (Barnabas). As a matter of fact, if someone had told me this was a long lost Barnabas acoustic piece I would believe them.
I have hesitated to invite comparison to Lordian Guard up to this point because I am not familiar with another act taking the same type of “medieval metal” approach. The lone group that potentially comes to mind is actually Barnabas, at least on the “suite” of three songs opening its 1984 album Feel The Fire, made up of the haunting instrumental “Prelude”, eerily conceived “The Dream” and over the top theatrics to “Breathless Wonderment”.
Saviour Machine, while more Gothic as opposed to metal, potentially deserves mention for its “soundtrack to the end of the world” Legend series based around the Book of Revelation. At the very least I can see those into Warlord also embracing Saviour Machine for its apocalyptic qualities.
And therein lies the problem: The scene has become overridden with so many cookie cutter “epic power metal” bands that the term “epic” has almost become watered down. What does it truly mean to be epic? In my opinion it comes down to the fact that there are different categories of epic metal. For instance, the “European” epic metal of Theocracy, with its emphasis on multi-layered choir backing vocals and huge anthem-like choruses, is a far cry from the “medieval” epic metal of Lordian Guard. Yes, both great bands, but the challenge is to accept the differences between the two while also understanding there are commonalities allowing both parties to meet in the middle.
Closing things out are the four acoustic Lordian Winds tracks with Rick Anderson, who sings in a higher register from what I recall during his stint in Martiria (see my reviews of The Age Of The Return and On The Way Back). I almost hear some Greg X. Volz qualities to his delivery but mixed with hints of Michael Gleason and Dennis Holt (both AD).
Opening acoustic versions to “My Name Is Man” and the Sinners… track “Stygian Passage”, are good. However, it is the two which follow that most garner my attention. “In The Name Of God”, the most upbeat of the four, melds a captivating bass line with occasional soaring guitar feedback, while “Dark Civilization” captures a Kansas influenced sound with its majestic keyboards and stately as it gets chorus (I can see Kerry Livgren composing something like this).
Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God features the more refined production to my ears (guitars sound crisper and low end stands out further).
“Golgotha”, as its name suggests, is a moving reenactment of the crucifixion with flowing keyboards and airy guitar harmonies playing defining roles. A sublime feel comes to the forefront as a result. Narration from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 adds up to what amounts a histrionic milieu (sort of like the Affector track “Salvation”):
Like a lamb to the slaughter
They led Him away as the prophets foretold
He carried our sins and our sorrows
To Golgotha, to the place they call the Skull
The eight and a half minute “Behold A Pale Horse” is the first of two progressive based “epics” here. Taking the more upbeat heading while maintaining a stern and ominous demeanor, the song is over the top with its apocalyptic flavorings in dealing with Revelation and End Times themes:
The kings will hid in the caves of the earth
As the people lament the day of their birth
Behold the pale horse rides…
In the blood of the night
His specter rides the moon
His holy sword in hand
The fear of God unleashed in the land…
All the while Tsamis puts on a clinical display of intricate and technical guitar work, with intense soloing and riff action persevering throughout.
“Stygian Passage”, slower and reinforcing a melody driven presence, gives rise to an exalted mentality with occasional quieter guitar passages and resounding low end. Likewise, “Father” bursts of emotion in playing up a mid-paced focus with a life like bass line and moving chorus full of heart and flair.
“Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”, the second epic at ten minutes, represents the Lordian Guard magnum opus. Another piece with a dramatic essence as its basis, with fitting “fire and brimstone” narration from a sermon by the Reformer Jonathan Edwards, the song combines decisive guitar based passages with light and airy moments shadowed by a haunting church organ. An explosive chorus best sums up the subject at hand:
Day of the damned at the throne they stand
Sinners in the hands of the God of man
Who is the One enthroned in the sky?
Behold it is Christ, in glory and might
Yes He, the One they crucified
“Battle Of The Living”, redone by Warlord for ROOTA, maintains its upbeat proclivity with the same uplifting chorus and churning guitar mentality. “Children Of The King”, interestingly, finds Lordian Guard experimenting with a commercial semi-ballad sound that approaches the grace and class of Sacred Warrior. Lyrics take a worshipful slant:
By the riches of His grace
Through His blood we have been saved
He was wounded for the sins of all the nations
And the blind man who sees
And the prisoner who is free
Who did deliver them from tyranny?
Of the bonus material, the “Behold A Pale Horse” single is a longer version of the same song (by 20 seconds) and “Deliver Us From Evil” the Warlord classic with Vidonne on vocals. The ROOTA cut “Invaders” represents by far the heaviest Lordian Guard piece, guitars pronounced almost to the point of classic metal (and drowning out the vocals in the process). Closer “Lady Vidonne (A Love Song)” stands out as a delicately done and heartfelt ballad.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing (CD 1): “Lost Archangel” (7:48), “Revelation XIX” (7:49), “My Name Is Man” (6:06), “Winds Of Thor” (5:27), “War In Heaven” (7:41), “In Peace He Comes Again” (3:43), “My Name Is Man” (5:14), “Stygian Passage” (5:12), “In The Name Of God” (5:53), “Dark Civilization” (7:25)
Track Listing (CD 2): “Golgotha” (6:01), “Behold A Pale Horse” (8:28), “Stygian Passage” (5:22), “Father” (5:10), “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” (10:10), “Battle Of The Living Dead” (4:16), “Children Of The King” (5:21), “Behold A Pale Horse” (8:47), “Deliver Us from Evil” (5:56), “Invaders” (6:04), “Lady Vidonne (A Love Song)” (4:52)
Musicians (Lordian Guard):
Vidonne Sayre-Riemenschneider - Lead Vocals
William J. Tsamis - All instruments
Musicians (Lordian Winds):
Rick Anderson - Lead Vocals
William J. Tsamis - Guitars & Keyboards
Dave Watry - Bass