Review: Legendarium – Under The Spell Of Destruction
Level 3 Fighter/Thief
There is no hero of sword-and-sorcery more renowned than Conan. Any who would contend face a figure more monument than man, battle-forged and king by his own hand. But it often escapes the notice of culture at large, and even many of his fans, that the character of Conan was as much a hero of guile and resourcefulness as of pure might. The last Cimmerian started his illustrious career picking pockets and laying low in the gutter to avoid suspicion, and returned there more than a few times in his perhaps over-chronicled and over-authored history. Wrenching into a completely dissimilar situation, it seems to be oft-forgotten that before Manowar was stomping across the land, with steel and death at hand, their original 6-string strongman Ross The Boss had been slumming it as the founder of one of NYC’s original punk bands, The Dictators. But Legendarium remembers.
The child of accomplished orb-ponderer Laurence Kerbov, Legendarium’s take on Bronze-Age power metal bears in mind its scruffy punk roots. In between the Spartan chord-work, you’ll find a purposeful mood of conquest and triumph to match the more elaborate fireworks of a polished Euro-power outfit, but with a rugged rawness drawn from those same punk seeds. The heroes in Legendarium’s many sagas come off less as eternal champions or men of war, but rebels against the certainty of defeat, taking pleasure in defiance as a virtue. Their dogged resilience, the weight of the swords in their weary hands, highlights the simple heroism of cresting the next hill with your enemy’s trail still in sight.
This spirit of single-minded grit also comes through from the unified songwriting, all handled and (mostly) recorded by Kerbov himself. The vocals, especially, will probably be the first thing to stand apart from the crowd, almost free of bombast and operatic aplomb. Is it odd to say I found something fraternal in the unassuming crow that sweeps across these songs? Something on my level, like a thief’s cant, which is to say I could match the notes and add my voice to the tale unfolding in a very connective way. The chorus of “Shadowheart” gets me holding my fist aloft, an imaginary blade lighting my way, even if Kerbov comes off a bit unsteady.
I was surprised at how refreshing a change it was from the virtuosic and all-too-orchestral power metal stereotype that had warded me off the genre proper for some time. If the singing was too melodramatic, it might risk ruining the saga-esque austerity that chills around the edges. Beyond the obvious USPM and early punk comparisons, I could note a few hints of Angel Witch‘s famous debut, and even a little bit of Dust (another classic punk-metal overlap) woven into this well-traveled musical dialect.
As befitting Legendarium’s influences, the guitar and drum work is function first, style second. The landscape is dominated by dashing power chords and dauntless Motorhead double-kick, carving out a pathway short on legato, but heavy on punch. True riffs are sparse, but deployed to great effect when they do roll around, like a meal of wild game to break the cycle of stern rations on the trail. The leadwork, though probably the most artful of all this album’s tools, works to the same end as the illuminated margins of a medieval text. Pleasing to the reader, but all the same, meant as an intricate, tessellated border to the real content, spilled across the body of the page. Where others fear to tread past their fortified city walls, Legendarium is in forgotten catacombs, digging up ancient amulets of power, and their future travails will surely be written with the most illustrious of exemplars, on the lapels of beaming nerds who refer to their ratty cutoff as a “battle jacket”. With Legendarium on their side, it will be truer than ever before.