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Very uneven, but the high points are worth it - 70%

Jophelerx, December 16th, 2015

Releasing an epic heavy metal album (partially) that also used vikings as a major theme, Legend were much, much ahead of their time. Epic metal masters Manilla Road were in their infancy, not yet having released their first full-length, and Manowar didn't even exist as a band yet. Metal wouldn't really take off as an entire genre until the following year, yet here in 1979 we have a set of mature tunes in a subgenre that didn't even exist yet. When speaking of the 4 relevant tunes here (which I'll be mostly referring to throughout this review when I talk about "the album"), there really wasn't anything like it out here at all at the time. Rush come the closest as far as I'm aware, with 1976's 2112 being epic in scope (for the most part) and fairly heavy; not consistently metal yet crossing over that line frequently, as this album does. The two aren't really terribly similar, though, just the closest things to each other as of From the Fjords' release. Vocalist Kevin Nugent doesn't really sound anything like Geddy Lee, and the songwriting is different enough, at least, that I wouldn't think of Rush when listening to the album unless I was specifically trying to pick out possible influences. Sure, there may have been some Rush influence, and it may resemble them here and there, but it's by no means worship or even overtly similar.

As I mentioned earlier, there are really 4 relative tracks, in my opinion; certainly anyone who's heard the album can agree that there are two distinct categories here; four tracks are epic heavy metal, and the other four are essentially progressive rock. Still, for a band's debut album and considering this was fucking 1979, it's overall quite impressive. Manowar's debut only had 2 epic heavy metal songs, and that wouldn't come out for another 3 years. I'll mostly be talking about the 4 epic heavy metal tracks on this album, although I will mention the other songs briefly to give an idea of what, specifically, they sound like. Kevin Nugent, while completely clean in his vocals and not "powerful" or aggressive at all, is also somewhat ahead of his time in vocal style, I would argue, at least in the context of the epic heavy metal subgenre. Since its inception, and continuing as it's grown in popularity, one of the two major subsets of epic heavy metal (which I describe in detail in other reviews, and will not here), what I've often referred to as western epic heavy metal, or WEHM, uses this vocal style more often than any other. Longings Past, Graven Rite/Eternal Champion, Avalon Steel, Terminus, and to some extent, Tales of Medusa, have all made use of it. The style is peculiar, doesn't sound terribly good on paper, and can be hard to digest, but it has been used by all of these groups for good reason; it works well in the context. This style is a sort of non-aggressive, low-to-mid range, "everyman" or almost nondescript delivery, often not technically impressive but usually full of character and possessive of a certain "storytelling" quality, as of a bard imparting a tale. That may not be an incredibly accurate or objective description, but if you listen to the vocalists of the aforementioned bands you'll understand what I'm talking about. The vocalists differ somewhat, with Tales of Medusa's singer possessing a bit more of a gloomy and indie rock quality, but still mostly fitting the general sound. Kevin Nugent can be pretty definitely pointed to as the originator of this vocal style in this context.

So enough on the vocals; what does the riffing in a 1979 epic heavy metal album sound like? About what one might expect from that description, I'd say. There's definitely some Priest in the riffing, as is more or less always the case for pre-1980 metal bands that aren't primarily inspired by Sabbath. However, Legend definitely have their own thing going. As with the vocals, the riffing isn't especially aggressive, certainly nothing that would warrant a gasp as far as heaviness in '79, but it is fairly unique. Even in the 36 years (as of writing this) since the album's release, I haven't come across anything that truly sounds similar. Fundamentally, the riffs are definitely "Priest with some prog rock going on as well," but the structure combined with the context of the vocals definitely provides something different, the closest point of reference maybe being early Manilla Road, specifically Invasion and Mark of the Beast. In fact, even of the 4 songs I called "epic heavy metal" only 3 are really heavy metal unambiguously; "The Golden Bell" is definitely the most epic in scope of the songs here, but it's not very metal, with only a few sections that even come close. That track definitely brings to mind Atlantean Kodex, except not shitty; similar in theme/style, though. "The Destroyer" and "The Wizard's Vengeance" are even more in a realm of their own, with Longings Past's Meadows of Maseilya sometimes being in the same general ballpark, but no closer than that. "From the Fjords" is most reminiscent of Manilla Road's "Triumvirate," with the obscure and unfortunately quite awful epic doom band Shelder also coming to mind.

Of the remaining 4 tracks, 2 are instrumental (I guess "The Confrontation" is actually pretty metal, but not at all "epic," and without Kevin Nugent), while "RARZ" and "Against the Gods" are on the heavy side of prog rock, but not metal and not very epic (the latter has hints of epic qualities, but to nowhere near the extent of some of the other tracks). Overall, it's really just a shame the band didn't do more after this. Nugent died in 1983, and it doesn't appear that they released anything in the interim. Nugent was definitely a promising young vocalist and Legend were definitely a promising young band, with potential to rival Manilla Road had they continued making music. The 4 epic heavy metal tracks on their own already do; if I were judging solely those tracks, I'd give the album a 97-98% or so. If they had improved in consistency and maturity, taking in more influences as heavy metal itself was evolving, they certainly could have been a classic, legendary (pun intended) heavy metal group. Unfortunately, things happened as they did, and we're just left with this dusty partial gem. Still, it's interesting to look at in its historical context and I'd definitely recommend it as far as the tracks that I rated positively. Their contribution to epic heavy metal certainly isn't forgotten.

Very unique for its time, but flawed - 87%

Empyreal, June 4th, 2007

A viking metal album from 1979. And I thought I had seen everything. Next thing I know, the sky really will be falling. But until then, this is Legend's famed debut "From the Fjords", and it's a milestone in creative heavy metal. While it leaned toward the more rockish side of things, they had long, progressively-tinged songs with extremely catchy and very metallic riffs, way ahead of most other US bands at the time. Sure, there was metal around in the late 70s, but this was an epic viking metal album from fucking '79, for Pete's sake. Nobody else was writing stuff like this for a couple more years, not until around the time Manilla Road hit their stride.

But enough with the history lesson. The band was fronted by Kevin Nugent, who had a pleasantly calm and clear voice, yet still managed to sound convincing and interesting. He's one of the most relaxed singers I've ever heard, and it's really a shame that he passed away a few years after this album was recorded. There aren't many other singers like this guy. He also handled the guitars here, which have a noticeable Southern twang to them at times, and also produce some of the catchiest riffs ever (see the title track). His solos are crystal clear and very well handled. The bass seems to follow the guitar and provides some extra crunch to them, which is, of course, always welcome.

The drummer, Raymond Frigon, is however, one of the best drummers I've ever heard. Yet he's the main detractor on this album. It seems like there's nothing this guy can't do, and it's a shame we never saw him in any other bands after this, but here he just doesn't seem to fit. Legend wasn't an overly complex band, and their riffs were pretty simple and straightforward, as were the vocal melodies. So why is this guy showing off every chance he gets? "The Iron Horse" for example has a 3+ minute drum solo that just kind of breaks up the song and makes it hard to listen to. On the other tracks here, it's mostly okay, because you can tune it out, but he seems to like providing as many fills and beats as he possibly can, and it's annoying. No doubt, he's talented, but the band would fit better with more simplistic drumming, nothing over the top like they did here.

The album starts off with two killer tracks; "Destroyer" and "The Wizard's Vengeance." The former always ends too soon, and it's a shame, because it's got a great main riff and awesome lyrics, plus a very cool vocal performance by Nugent. There's simply nothing wrong with it, at all. Classic, classic, classic...this song will never get old. The latter is an anthemic, upbeat jingle that I first knew from the cover Slough Feg did of it on their Twilight of the Idols album, and it's fun and replayable as fuck. "The Golden Bell" is probably my favorite song here, a seven minute epic filled with time changes and packed with great lyrics and melodies, along with some cool chanting vocals. Even the drumming is not too distracting here. The leadwork is nothing short of stunning, and very reminiscent of the classic rock bands of the time (no surprise, really). Words really cannot do this song justice, it's simply perfect. If every song were like these three, then I'd just stop the review now and give the album a perfect score, but about half of this album is useless filler, and it makes me wonder why this wasn't just an EP with the four good songs on it. "The Confrontation" is good, but fairly pointless, and the two following tracks are just unmemorable as Hell. "The Iron Horse" is another instrumental, and isn't as good as it should be due to that drum solo I mentioned previously, which just kills the whole thing. Now, the title track is another great one, and I'm glad it closed the album. It leaves you on a good note, with probably the catchiest riff on the album, plus lots of time changes and unfortunately, drum wankery (I never thought I'd have to use those two words together). The lyrics are also fantastic here, telling another viking tale, and it still amazes me how far ahead of their time Legend were.

So here we have a disc of quite above average, yet flawed, epic heavy metal. For fans of the genre, this is mandatory, and you will really love Legend. It's not without flaws, but those can be overlooked in favor of the shining gems also to be found within this little treasure trove of heavy metal mastery. It's a shame they never released anything else. Highly recommended.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
(updated 12-8-07)

WAAAY ahead of it's time... Not what you'd expect! - 98%

VibrationsOfDoom, September 25th, 2004

As the topic above says, every time I listen to this album it is VERY difficult for me to believe it was recorded in 1979. The lyrics especially, which espouse the Viking and fantasy themes (at LEAST quite a few years before the band I consider to be one of the first Viking Metal bands in Faithful Breath, possibly around the same time as Heavy Load) were very UNTYPICAL for this day and age. 'The Golden Bell' is a great epic tune about a quest for, well, a golden bell, a boat borne trip fraught with perils and disasters. 'From The Fjords,' the song, is about the Viking pillage and destruction trek, which was quite gruesome for it's day, as well as 'The Destroyer,' a song sung from an omnipotent god or deity's point of view, which was very original. 'The Destroyer' is a fantastic start, with some unusually catchy and melodic guitar work that you will NEVER forget, and will probably be whistling while at work. The vocals are astonishing as well, very melodic and quite soothing, but on a track like 'The Wizard's Vengeance,' he can definitely sound ominous and dark. 'From The Fjords' has some very interesting guitar work that is just downright heavy in spots, and the whole recording has both darkness, heaviness and this feeling that you have to listen to to describe. Check out the Viking styled multi vocal chants on 'The Golden Bell,' and though the band hailed from the U.S. (which makes their Viking fascination that much more impressive) they had that sound by at least a full 10 years or so before Amon Amarth, Einherjer, Moonsorrow and the like started incorporating it.

Asides? Well, though the above reviewer disagrees with me, I think the two instrumentals are quite stunning. Besides the framework and context of a song format, these instrumentals show off the drums and guitars quite well. The drummer is a monster, and that guitar riffing NEVER gets tiring. I do admit that on 'The Iron Horse' things go on a bit long, but I'll still listen anyway. 'R.A.R.Z.' sounds a tad silly with the clip clop sounds and wierd twangy country guitar, but it's not a terrible track, just one of their weakest that almost seems out of place with everything else. You can, of course, listen to the entire album at vibrationsofdoom.com, and I must say out of all 500 something 80's metal albums in my collection, THIS album is so easily in the top 3 of best records of alltime. This album blew my mind when I first heard it and it STILL, NEVER ceases to become amazing to this day. THey even had the balls to do epic 8 minute songs long before the power metal or the doom metal generation picked up on this!! All hail Legend! (As a side note, this was supposed to be reissued on CD by Monster Record, but it is taking WAAAY too long, as there are said to be bonus tracks which I am dying to hear!)

One of the all time best epic heavy metal albums - 90%

Egregius, July 25th, 2004

If we're going to talk hidden gems, we must discuss Legend from the US. Who actually knows these guys? You'll have to be lucky to find mp3s of them, and I sure was lucky I did.

The subgenre of Epic Heavy Metal isn't particularly huge. We all know Brocas Helm, but a late 70s viking-themed epic heavy metal album? That's something special.

It's hard to describe the fantastic vibe I get from this album, the atmosphere. I guess it's like listening to an encapsulating story, forgetting your worldly worries. Basically comparable to 70s rock, where you get carried away by the recognizable tunes; on From The Fjords it's with the smooth melodies and those warm vocals.

The sound is rooted in the 70s rock-sound, but transferred to melodic heavy metal with a distinct quality. When you put it on, you recognize it's Legend's From The Fjords immediatly. It helps that it starts with the best track, the sadly merely 5 minute epic 'The Destroyer', immediatly followed by the second best 'The Wizard's Vengeance' where we're treated to emotionally laden dual vocals.

If there are downpoints to this album however, they're minor ones. First track on side B, 'R.A.R.Z.', is a rock song, with a country intro, and as such completely stands out of the rest of the album's theme and breaks up the atmosphere. It isn't particularly good either, so I can only imagine they left it on here to make the rest sound good by comparison.
Second, the drum-solo in The Iron Horse takes way too long. It reminded me of Rat Salad on Black Sabbath's Paranoid album, although it isn't quite that bad. As such, the album doesn't seem to reach the brilliance of the first 4 tracks on the A side.

In spite of the above, this remains highly recommendable epic heavy metal, from an overlooked subgenre. If you see the original, the repressing or the upcoming cd-release, buy it out immediatly. This stuff is rare and precious.