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I have a soft spot in my heart for a good epic album with fantasy based lyrics and all the classical music trappings of a Rhapsody Of Fire and Dark Moor. There has been a rich tradition of bands hailing from Spain, Italy, Finland and France that have taken this peculiar variation on the template first established by Helloween in the late 80s, and Derdian is among the lesser know of these adherents. While being in existence since the formative years of their style in the late 90s, it wasn’t until the past 5 or 6 years that the band managed to move beyond the independent demo phase and the results since have been fairly impressive.
The band’s 3rd installment of an ongoing series titled “A New Era Pt. 3 – The Apocalypse” is another consistent offering in the predictable, yet very entertaining mode that the Italian power metal scene tends to be known for. Grandiose themes of battles, heroes, mythical beings and an occasional introspective analogy to real life are woven into a very tight; mostly speed metal oriented arrangement with a fair amount of synthesized orchestral detailing. Unlike many of their competitors, this band takes a much humbler approach to production that avoids the massive orchestrations heard on “Power Of The Dragonflame” and “Gates Of Oblivion”, but a similar character is established nonetheless.
The greatest asset this band possesses isn’t a singular virtuoso musician like a Luca Turilli or a Jens Johansson, nor is vocalist Joe Cagianelli the most astoundingly massive operatic presence that one might expect (he actually sounds like a cross between current Dark Moor vocalist Alfred Romero and Tobias Sammet). What gets the job done here is a catchy arrangement that puts the emphasis on melody and consonance, sort of in the same vain as a great film score to an average Sci-Fi/Fantasy film. Particularly of note is the high flying goodness of “Burn”, “The Spell”, and “Dreams”; all of which are relatively short and simple yet perfectly bring out the gallant, classicist songwriting style with heavy 18th century influences typical of the average Dark Moor album.
This is an album that offers few surprises and generally deals in the familiar, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is a draw to the cliché tales where good triumphs at the end and the plotline will follow a very formulaic structure, and this has it in droves. I’m often reminded of a number of more obscure bands from earlier in the 2000s who didn’t last very long when hearing Derdian’s work, namely the now defunct Spanish band Lorien (which also had a very proficient bassist) and the long extinct Italian crusaders Landguard (with only one album to their credit). Thankfully there are bands out there that can survive personnel and distribution setbacks, and Derdian has definitely paid their dues in that regard.