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Waiting In Everwinter - 83%

Larry6990, August 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Limb Music

This was the most anticipated album of 2017 for me. Back in 2012, Fogalord utterly blew me away with their debut A Legend To Believe In – a blazing tour de force of symphonic power metal with huge dynamic variety and a masterful storytelling characteristic. So effective was their fusion of the story with the music, that I’d often get invested in the ‘characters’ and become moved when one died, like I was reading a George R. R. Martin novel. Their use of recurring themes (which I am always a sucker for!) was second to none and only emphasized the emotional impact of the fantasy tale. After a five-year gap, which has felt like an eternity, the fog lord finally returns in the shape of Masters Of War, which is a prequel to the events of …Legend…. Initially, I was disappointed. But, just as with their debut, it takes time to absorb. Before hearing or reading about this record, I highly recommend taking the time to get to know that 2012 masterpiece. It’ll make this album even more worthwhile.

As a project, Fogalord has always been manned by the incredibly talented Daniele Bisi – who governs songwriting, production, concept, orchestration and arrangement. The passion of a mainman can always be told through the album’s liner notes. Masters Of War includes brief narratives of each song to help the listener keep track of the story, and some fine artwork from Felipe Machado Franco (who seems to get everywhere!). However, despite this extra effort, the story itself is vague and harder to follow when compared the ‘good vs evil’ aspect of the debut. I would love an explanation of exactly who the Daughter and the Masters of War are, and how they relate to the Fog Lord. It doesn’t help that English is not their strongest language, though it does make for some unintentionally comic sentences.

Musically, this is an impressive album indeed. It’s refreshing to hear a symphonic power metal band pushing a few boundaries here and there with their own style. Bisi’s way of writing melodies that don’t follow simple patterns, but instead flow seamlessly into the next, is a technique all of his own and well executed on this record. The recurring themes too are, thankfully, omnipresent. My favourite aspect of any concept album is the use of repeated musical motifs, and I was looking forward to hearing familiar tunes from A Legend To Believe In throughout Masters Of War. I was not disappointed! The flute outro to “Scream Of The Thunder” can be heard in the middle of closing track “The Sword’s Will”; one of the sad string motifs from “Our Last Nightfall” is reprised in “The Gift Of The White Lady”; most notably, the opening theme from “Follow The Fog” (which I consider the main theme of the whole story) rears its head amongst the clamour of the title-track. I squealed with excitement when I finally noticed it! There are tons more, but repeated listens will reveal plenty of treasures.

The production quality was a big part of my initial disappointment, but the more I familiarize myself with the atmosphere of this record, the more I enjoy its raw power. The clattery snare drum is especially unique, but at least the symphonic elements hold clarity above the general din. Bisi’s vocals are also further back in the mix than I would have liked, but perhaps the nature of the album as a prequel meant this was deliberate? Surprisingly, and sadly, his performance is lacking in accuracy and often drifts out of key. We’re not talking Max Leclerq bad, but there are a few definite cringe moments, especially in the album’s calmer stages like “Daughter Of The Morning Light” and “The Gift Of The White Lady”. Thankfully, he’s usually right on the money for the up-tempo numbers – and these really are the standout tracks! “Rising Through The Mist Of Time” especially is the perfect opener – exploding out of the speakers with pure energy and finesse.

Drummer Nicolo Bernini pushes the envelope a few times with his use of blast-beats; a technique I always welcome in power metal. The rapid-fire “When The Blizzard Awakes” is particularly furious, and the title-track rattles along with grandeur and vibrancy. Even the slower tracks retain their energy by adopting that martial atmosphere Fogalord are so good at. “The Storm Of Steel” especially shines with its addictive pipe melody. This is not a band to instantly latch onto if you’re looking for catchy hooks – this is thinking-man’s power metal. Spinning the disc multiple times will result in fandom by osmosis. The minor faults are only the nitpickings of a die-hard fan; in reality, Masters Of War is a great symphonic power metal album by one of the most interesting new acts in recent years. I look forward to future releases, and hopefully discussing the ins and outs of the music with the Bisi himself (I can dream!). Until then, keep following the fog…