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It’s been eight years since we’ve seen a new album from Swedes The Storyteller, and it’s next to impossible to anticipate the quality of an album when there’s that kind of time lapse. Granted, The Storyteller was going pretty strong in 2005 with the release of Underworld, but so was Morifade, before that band went down the tubes. Conversely, we’ve recently seen a blockbuster comeback in the form of Holy Knights’ Between Daylight And Pain, so who really knows what to expect? Personnel-wise, little has changed (it’s a bit of a mess, but effectively they’ve dropped a key player and gained a bassist), and so we don’t have a major overhaul to worry about. From the outset, the only remarkable thing about Dark Legacy seems to be that its a concept album about Norse mythology, an oft-used subject that I’m not terrifically familiar with, and so I will do away entirely with lyrical and conceptual elements for the purpose of this review.
As many have probably hoped, The Storyteller is back to their usual tricks with Dark Legacy, playing fairly standard alternating double-bass and mid-tempo power metal that’s accessible, while featuring a good number of vocal hooks. There’s nothing new or even terribly different about the style of the album, but I can’t shake the feeling, even from the beginning, that Dark Legacy is somehow less inspired and less energetic than the band’s last couple of ventures, especially compared to the cracking Underworld. Persson’s vocals are the same as ever (mid-high range rasping cleans similar to Jonny Lindqvist of Nocturnal Rites), but the backing vocals throughout much of the album are an odd mixture. At times they serve the purpose of bolstering the potency of the leads, but there are moments (such as during the title track) when they just sound messy and distracting (if you don’t believe me, check out “Forever They Shall Kneel” – which is probably the best example on the album).
On top of that, the occasional harsh vocals are inexpert and unnecessary for the band’s style of music, and really add nothing (see “Sancto Spirito”). The songs on this album also follow a rather redundant formula that, while not bad, lacks the vitality of some of the band’s previous work, and therefore the effort and pacing comes across as a bit torpid. Lastly and most importantly, however, is the single most important drawback to Dark Legacy: the guitar work (or rather lack thereof). Both the rhythm and lead guitar play backseat to Persson’s vocals for nearly the entire album, which would be less of a problem if he didn’t have the sort of voice that irritated me after a while (and if the backing layered vocals were more competent). The constant moderate tempo gets tiring without any expert support from guitars – of which there is precious little. Only during opener “Release Me” and the uptempo “Break The Bounds” was I completely satisfied with the guitar’s contribution, which was otherwise fairly sterile and predictable. I feel that the disappearance of the keys from The Storyteller’s mix has also left a bit of a vacuum that has not been filled.
Don’t get me wrong, Dark Legacy is still a fairly enjoyable work, and perhaps I’ve been too hard on it. Let down as I am by the band’s “comeback”, I’ll continue to listen to this album for a while to see if it hooks me, something that is only really accomplished irregularly at this point. I’d still recommend Dark Legacy to fans of the band’s past work, and anyone looking for some more Swedish-styled power metal a la Nocturnal Rites, older Steel Attack, and Nostradameus. You may well enjoy this more than I, and you can certainly do worse.
Original review written for Black Wind Metal
It only took eight years, but finally The Storyteller has emerged from hiatus. Seemingly underrated and under-appreciated in both power metal circles, and the metal community as a whole, it will interesting to see how well-received the new album ultimately is. I, for one, couldn't be more pleased.
Picking up right where "The Underworld" left off, "Dark Legacy" is late 90s/early 00s power metal in its purest form. Think mid-period Wizard and "Somewhere Far Beyond"-era Blind Guardian, and you're on the right track. The Storyteller's brand of power metal has always landed on the heavier/grittier end of the spectrum, and this album is no exception.
Much of "Dark Legacy" follows the template of speedy, crunchy, double-bass driven power metal, which is executed almost flawlessly on tracks such as "Strength Of Valhalla", "Forever Thou Shall Kneel" and "Upon The Icy Throne". However, variety can be found. "Uninvited Guest" is led by a more modern riff and overall approach, "God Of Gods" is mid-paced and slightly reminiscent of Dio, and "Sands Of Time" is an orchestral ballad leading up to the epic closer, "Battle Of Yggdrasil".
Vocalist L-G Persson returns in fine form with his somewhat throaty and unique delivery, stamping his signature all over the album. His voice has always been the stand-out feature of The Storyteller, and it's great to him on record once again.
Fans of The Storyteller should rejoice over "Dark Legacy", while Power Metal fans that missed these guys the first time around have some catching up to do. Along with Dreamtale and Drakkar, these guys are doing an admiral job of keeping the old spirit alive.
(originally written for www.metal-observer.com)