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Dark fantasy power metal done right - 79%

AnalogKid, September 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Logar’s Diary is a vaguely familiar name that feels like it’s from the distant past (indeed, Book II: Parlainth – The Forgotten City came out in 2006 – a time when I was just really getting into power metal!). However, there seem to be a lot of long-delayed sequels coming out over the last couple of years, and I’m happy to welcome these Germans as a new arrival in the “win” column of that list.

While power metal is, at times, virtually synonymous with “Dungeons & Dragons” metal, I doubt the vast majority of metalheads (or even roleplayers) of my generation are acquainted with Earthdawn, a moderately popular and recently-revived FASA classic tabletop RPG, and apparently this band’s inspiration of choice. Unfortunately, not being an Earthdawn gamer myself, I can’t comment further, other than the band’s lyrics are a continuing saga based upon a wizard inhabiting the Earthdawn universe.

Lest I be tempted to break out Fantasy Grounds instead of type a review, however, let’s get to the music. I flat out admit that I don’t recall the band’s past albums, but At The Crossroads gives me immediate reason to look backward with hope. The lyrics here are quite flimsy, in part because of the concept, and in part because of the German translation, I suspect, but they’re not as bad as a dozen Italian acts I could spit out off the top of my head. However, the songs are addictive and quite professional, the interludes and intros ooze classy atmosphere, and the guitars are riffy and positively delightful. Opener “Dreaming Wide Awake” puts the band’s tasteful blend of synthy ambiance, rough-shod mid-range vocals, and staccato riffing on open display with turbulent verses and a striking chorus that hits like a breath of cold air. Hagen Hirschmann really has a great night-and-day blend of sober clean vocals, mixed with a frequently employed harsh gravelly timbre that does wonders for the aggression of these songs. On occasion, he reminds me of Thorsten Kohlrausch (Dark At Dawn) gone full-bore power metal in his approach.

Moving on, “Return To Bartertown” has a silly name, and some very silly lyrics to boot, but (and wouldn’t you just guess?) it stands up tall as one of my favorites of the album. An idyllic acoustic intro gives way to memorable vocal lines and wonderful, trebly guitar leads that are exactly the kind of thing you expect from German power metal nobility. The pre-chorus riff smokes, and gives way to a strikingly start-and-stop chorus that fits in an odd sort of way. The album only really has one other consistently fast, hooky song (“Waking Wide Asleep”), and few that are cheerful sounding, unlike many fantasy-inspired power metal works. In fact, At The Crossroads is a pretty moody, turbulent affair on the whole, and it works just as hard when in this mode. Take the malefic and brooding “Raiders Of The Twilight Peaks” for example – it’s not complicated, but it boasts a memorability all its own thanks to lurching verses, harsh vocal outbursts, and an almost dirgelike chorus. I also feel that “Kratas (City Of Thieves)” is an almost magical song in its own right. The tinkly, haunting introduction reminds me of some of my favorite old PC RPGs, and driving verses hurl Hagen and his party headlong into wistful, martial choruses.

I’ll digress from specifics, but I’m impressed. The small pool of mature fantasy concept albums continues to grow, and Logar’s Diary is the latest in a trickle of them. These talented Germans don’t overcomplicate anything, nor grow too ambitious with either their lyricism or studio elements. Instead, the focus is very much on vocal variation, creation of atmosphere via strategic use of keys and guitar, and engaged storytelling. I have an inkling that if I were into Earthdawn the way I’m into Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles Of Prydain, I would be hailing this band as the most amazing niche power metal act in existence (as I do with Lucid Dreaming). As it stands, Book III: At The Crossroads is a sturdy, refreshingly varied, and punchy slab of Germanic power metal that stands up strong to analysis. Recommended to fans of more involved fantasy story albums (Evertale, Bane Of Winterstorm, Blind Guardian, Lorenguard, Aina), and those who enjoy Germanic heavy/power acts that dial back the speed and push aggressive vocals to the fore (Dark At Dawn, Rebellion, perhaps even Rage), but feel that these bands could do with an injection of both fantasy and power.

Originally written for Black Wind Metal