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4.00 | 10 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Power Metal


1. Struggle for Life (1:53)
2. To the Master of Darkness (7:33)
3. Gates of Noland (5:13)
4. Broken Illusion (5:11)
5. All That Is True (9:55)
6. Valiant Ride (4:13)
7. Dinanzi al flagello (1:29)
8. Soulless Child (9:15)
9. Through My Veins (7:19)
10. Hope Dies Last (14:31)

Total time: 66:32


- Martino Garattoni / Bass
- Claudio Pietronik / Guitars
- Fabio Balducci / Guitars
- Sara Squadrani / Vocals
- Daniele Mazza / Keyboards, The Ancient Bards Choir, Barbarian Choir on track 6
- Federico Gatti / Drums


- Martino Garattoni / The Ancient Bards Choir, Barbarian Choir on track 6
- Giorgia Palmerini / Epic Choir
- Claudia Rivoli / Epic Choir
- Ala Ganciu / Epic Choir
- Raffaella Ceccarelli / Epic Choir
- Fabrizia Conti / Epic Choir
- Maria Letizia Sassaroli / Epic Choir
- Maria Luisa Cenci / Epic Choir
- Giambattista Volpones / Epic Choir
- Edoardo Canducci / Epic Choir
- Michele Canducci / Epic Choir
- Giovanni Frison / Epic Choir
- Claudia Saponi / The Ancient Bards Choir
- Gian Maria / Growling Vocals on Track 9, The Ancient Bards Choir
- Simone Mularoni / Acoustic Guitars on Tracks 5 & 10, The Ancient Bards Choir, Barbarian Choir on track 6
- Joseph Spiller / The Ancient Bards Choir
- Chiara Delvecchio / The Ancient Bards Choir
- Roberto Coffee / Epic Choir

About this release

Released by Limb Music GmbH, November 15th, 2011.

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition


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As big of a Dungeons & Dragons nerd as I am, you'd expect me to be more into Rhapsody of Fire-esque symphonically-inclined power metal bands, but the fact is that I find the output of such bands a little hit or miss, so inclined are they to pile on layer after layer of guitar solos, orchestras and cheese that songwriting and compositional technique rather goes by the wayside.

Imagine my pleasure, then, to stumble across the work of Rhapsody's fellow countrymen Ancient Bards. Sara Squadrani's lead vocals might make some listeners think of Nightwish, but overall what we are looking at is far more in Rhapsody of Fire's court: a high fantasy concept album in which orchestral arrangements are just as significant as what the band themselves are getting up to.

What makes the album for me is the way the band show exceptionally good taste when it comes to the balance between orchestral sections and band-led sections. It's this sense of restraint which, paradoxically, gives their compositions more impact; because they judge so finely when to have the orchestra swell up or when to have the band let rip, when they do let loose it's far more effective than it would have been if they'd kept things cranked up to 11 for the whole running time.

What results is an entertaining enough album, but though the band seem to have got the balance of the various ingredients of their musical stew right, there isn't enough of the spice of novelty to really make this much of a keeper if you've already got a decent Rhapsody collection.
If you’ve ever wondered what Rhapsody of Fire would sound like if they ditched Fabio Lione in favour of a female singer then you need look no further than Italy’s Ancient Bards. The young symphonic power metal crew share many similarities with their longer running countrymen, such as the epic symphonic nature of their power metal that isn’t without its neoclassical touches and a fondness for the multi album concept, but they have a female singer, Sara Squadrani. Of course there are other differences in the sounds of the two bands, but there are enough parallels that I can’t help but draw some sort of comparison between them.

2011’s Soulless Child is the group’s second album, a conceptual piece that continues the story began in the band’s 2010 debut, The Alliance of the Kings. The aforementioned album impressed me greatly last year and I’ve been quite eager for its continuation ever since. What I find here though is a slightly different Ancient Bards. While The Alliance of the Kings was undoubtedly a symphonic power metal album through and through, Soulless Child is a symphonic power metal album crossed with actual symphonic metal. That is to say that metal can be symphonic without actually being pure symphonic metal, something which is rarer than you may think. Here we have symphonic power metal yes, but it also meets the definition of pure symphonic metal in many places. The symphonic keyboards often take a more dominate role, and the classical influences are unmistakeable. These classical influences also manifest as neoclassical guitar leads. This is still best described as a power metal release in my opinion, but symphonic metal wouldn’t be wrong either.

Unlike with many of the female fronted symphonic metal acts however, Sara Squadrani isn’t an operatic vocalist. Her vocals are, for want of a better description, more metal orientated than singers such as Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) or Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), although she is still very melodic and powerful. It would still be easy to lump Ancient Bards into the same crowd as acts like Nightwish, especially as of this album which does have some qualities that brings to mind Nightwish’s early output, and also some moments, particularly the choirs, where I think of Epica, but ultimately this wouldn’t be fair, as Ancient Bards is worlds apart in the wider scheme of things. They’re a lot heavier for a start, with their extremely fast power metal riffs propelling the music along with Daniele Mazza’s keyboards which gives the music an epic yet intense sound.

At first I wasn’t as fond of Soulless Child as I was of The Alliance of the Kings, but as is often the way of things I’ve grown to appreciate the album as a work of true genius. There is never a power loss throughout the album and every single track (excluding the intro piece Struggle for Life and the interlude Dinanzi Al Flagello) has many claims to being the very beast the album has to offer. The ones that really do it for me though are Gates of Noland and Hope Dies Last, a fourteen minute thirty beast of a track which is easily the band’s crowning achievement to date. Power metal does not get more epic than this and it’s most definitely refreshing on the symphonic metal front for the singer to be belting out the lyrics in true passionate rock style rather than operatic warbling.

On the track Through my Veins the band delivers a duet between Squadrani and guest vocalist Gianmaria Vannoni (Dawn Under Eclipse). Being from a melodic death metal/metalcore act, Vannoni brings harsh vocals into the mix, which at first I did feel were unneeded, but like with the rest of Soulless Child I grew to appreciate the track a whole lot by the time I came to write this review. Soulless Child has in fact quite successfully cracked my top 5 albums of 2011, and I heard a lot of releases from the year now, including more albums I’d grade as masterpieces than any other year I know of. And do you know what the icing on the cake is? The album sounds even more epic when listening to it back to back with The Alliance of the Kings. I can’t wait to hear what this band does next!

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 9.8/10)

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