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Back in the World of Adventures - 83%

Liquid_Braino, December 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Independent

Although there's a fair amount of power metal comprising their overall sound, the symphonic and folk influences cannot be understated. Evenmore even boasts a member dedicated to flutes, whistles, recorders and other woodwind instruments exclusively, and this bloke is a pretty busy fellow. There's even a shit-ton of interludes in which his reed blowing carries the backdrop while the female narrator spins her medieval yarn to her daughter and us listeners before the next barrage of heavy metal erupts. Last Ride itself is a fairly straightforward concept album about a heroic king, a lonely queen, some pissed-off knights and other shit back in the good ole' days of yore. It's the kind of adventure that instills a bit of regret in that we now live in an age in which we can't walk down Main Street in full chain mail and double-bladed weapons without receiving unwanted attention from nobodies. Granted, you could die from a damn cold back then and the lack of interstate highways is kind of a drag, but still, those olden days of dragons, elfin babes and alligator-strewn moats...good times.

I have to admit; this band throws themselves into this era with such abandon that it's refreshingly endearing. Although Melissa Bonney isn't your typical looking damsel from the rolling hills of Havenhoof, she is quite a fine warrior princess, and her vocals are strong with clear enunciation. She's not operatic, but wields a healthy vibrato when necessary and her tone is truly pleasing, feminine but not ethereal or too poppy. While the music primarily bounces around various mid-tempo ranges, there's plenty of double-bass kicks and upbeat galloping rhythms to keep the storyline surging forward, along with a few bursts of speedy tempos. Melissa even tosses in a few growls during certain numbers, and while not particularly frightening, her female goblin growls are rather fetching, and thankfully don't bear that angsty, emotional metalcore accentuation. During the song "Eleana", in which the protagonist king is chillin' with the queen of some rival kingdom, we are treated to Melissa in a duet with credential-drenched Henning Basse, who is obviously no fucking slouch.

While I think the album works better as a whole due to the whole story spiel and numerous interludes, some of these numbers stand out individually, such as the proud as fuck "Breaking the Silence" with its war-waging chorus, but without air-raid siren overkill concerning the vocals. "Tavern" is the obvious jaunty mead guzzling number featuring a swarm of pipe solos, but behind all that noise there's some snazzy guitar riffs with quick, sharp bites that spruce up the precise rhythm section. I wish there was more guitar soloing on this release, but I suppose when you have a member who only plays woodwinds and crap, it's not exactly nice to have the guy just farting around on stage the whole time, doing jigs or high-fiving the front row over and over again. "Poisoned Thorn" stands out with its groove-orientated verses, but thanks to a little imagination in spicing up simplicity with some cool, transient guitar licks, it doesn't wind up being the one-eyed runt of the litter. "Last Breath" is also a notable number as Anna Murphy of Eluveitie fame makes an appearance.

Luring in a couple of heavy hitter guest singers adds weight to the fact no amount of cringy narration dissuades the notion that this project is serious business. And while Melissa is also the vocalist for Rage of Light, a quasi-industrial groove deal that's far removed from adventuring forth across the pastures of Gwendelnoire to retrieve the Sword of Wisdom from the clutches of the seven belching widows of Castle Grimmeroff, her conviction throughout Last Ride feels impassioned and genuine. The production is clear and allows room for each instrument to breath, although the drums sound a bit sterile and during double bass workouts I'm not always sure about what the damn tempo is since the snare is too low in the mix. Due to the lack of full-on speed demons, the band leans more towards the symphonic metal side of the spectrum, but much of the material is engaging, and all of the sword-swinging elements and interludes award the album some silly grin appeal, in that I just can't hate this sort of unabashed devotion to fantastical lore. At the tale's end, the daughter tells her mother that she wants to grow up to be a true warrior, thus the heart of this project is in the right place. We'll see how it matures.