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By the Gods, what a sensational debut from these Italian masters! ... I will fully admit that, before hearing The Alliance Of The Kings - Ancient Bards' 2010 debut album - I had yet to hear a note of their music, however, between the cover artwork, song titles and the overall mystique surrounding the album and its contents, I decided to take the plunge and was justly, justly rewarded, to say the least! In a nutshell, Ancient Bards reminds one of power metal's glory days, when albums like Rhapsody's Dawn Of Victory and Dark Moor's The Hall Of Olden Dreams were the norm, in terms of quality, bombast and atmosphere; sadly, as many power metal enthusiasts are used to thesedays, such releases in vein of the classics are a rarity and, indeed, the river has run rather dry though, fellow brethren, do not despair, for The Alliance Of The Kings IS a masterwork of such immense proportions that it can rightfully stand next to the aforementioned albums, and more!
One of the things I was initially a little weary of with this album was the fact that the vocalist was female and no, I don't mean that in any kind of sexist way whatsoever but, rather, in a sense of avoiding Within Temptation clones (which are in over-abundance at the moment, alas) though, to my absolute delight, Sara Squadrani's vocals remind one of Elisa Martin (Fairyland/Dark Moor) or Federica De Boni (White Skull) rather than Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation). Sara's voice resounds with great power and clarity, soaring through and amidst the melodies with both confidence and prowess, truly capturing the power and potential of melodic metal's high vocal standards.
Musically - musically ... okay, where to begin? - this album is just RIDICULOUS in how good it is, truly! - the melodies, the compositions, the instrumentation, the arrangements! - I am, quite admittedly, still quite in awe with just how incredible each and every track is on The Alliance Of The Kings, in every regard and manner possible. The songs take on addictive yet progressive structures, where one can expect an orchestral movement followed by a floating and energized folk melody, transitioning right into an exceptional guitar solo flowing back into the aforementioned melody - this time utilizing more instrumentation for maximum power - and, just when you think you are going to explode with excitement, one is taken amidst Rhapsody-esque, tarantella-type guitar/orchestra interplay to truly create and conclude an instrumental climax akin to those rare power metal moments! ... all of that, by the way, is just in a couple of minutes of the song Four Magic Elements. I do not exaggerate when I say that every song IS a masterpiece, without flaws and without any moments of monotony or derivativeness; this album goes all over the place with insane orchestrations and melodies, without ever losing any coherency which, in the case of an album as layered and dynamic as this, is quite a feat!
As for a couple little notes, the use of bass on this album is just fantastic and, indeed, it's quite audible compared to a lot of epic, symphonic power metal albums. Furthermore, the production is absolute, cutting through one's speakers with shimmering clarity, where all of the instruments shine through in their own right and, considering just how dense the album is with instrumentation, that is a compliment of the highest order. I would also like to highlight the choral arrangements as well, which come through at just the right moments for maximum impact, elevating already flawless musical moments to truly divine heights!
All in all, you would be an absolute fool NOT to check this album out immediately if you call yourself a power metal fan of any sort, and I mean that! This is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive debut albums I have ever, ever heard and, after a good ten or twelve listens within a week's time, I can still say I am totally awed each and every time I listen through Ancient Bards' The Alliance Of The Kings which has, already, become an all-time power metal favorite of mine. Make haste in obtaining this album, and prepare for a metallic, epic, symphonic and grandiose adventure of a lifetime - you assuredly won't regret it!