Sound — 9
It's really unusual to find in an instrumental release interesting stuff, normally I'm the kind of guy who skip to the next track when I hear in a middle of album an instrumental song because I'm more interested in lyrics and singing; I think that a good singer (especially expressive) can give a better feeling of the meaning of a song.
Well, I have to reconsider this point because while I was listening this album I noticed that it was instrumental after the third song! I'm really surprised and, I'm my opinion, Antonio had found a way to transmit emotion and feelings without put any lyrics in! There are only few narration, which is something that I agree because, as Antonio also says, an album full of spoken part could be too boring in the end.
This album is various, it's a symphonic power metal full-length with folk and Celtic inserts and atmospheric parts but, it sounds so homogeneous and harmonious and the first impression, after one hour of music, is that there's no filler track... Each one has its story that connects to novel in the booklet... Yeah, you read right, there's a novel within called "Chronicles of the Nordic Warriors" and also a RPG-look-like color map that describes betters places in Arcandia. Also I've found the production really powerful and full of cinematic and deeper inserts.
Antonio is the only composer of the album and a guitarist first of all but, even so, there's only one song where guitars leads ("Top of the World") the remaining album is perfectly balanced between strings, brass and orchestral arrangements, no never-ending solos, another point in its favor... Instrumental album with lots of solo is so boring! Though guitars are not leading in every composition, when a solos strikes in the middle of a song it's freaking awesome! Antonio has lots of skills in his hands, he reminds me the neoclassical style of Mr. Turilli and the song "Furia Divina" is one of the best inspiring part. I'm really thankful that Antonio send me this PR.
Lyrics — 6
No lyrics, as I said before, but there are narration parts in the songs "Icy Tempest" and "Orania" that really catches my curiosity; they are performed by a professional BBC voiceover, Peter Baker and I'm my opinion he describes splendidly the events, he plays "King Atheristan VI." He performs also little parts in the introduction of other few songs, while the dialogue between the main characters of the story (Symond and Tarikk) are performed by other voiceovers that Antonio keeps unrevealed in the final credits. I cannot put high score here because there's no lyrics but I'm still impressed about the spoken parts.
Overall Impression — 8
There's lots of deja-vu on this release but no plagiarism! Antonio is a genius, he catches the best from symphonic metal, folk and soundtracks and blends the whole stuff in one big creature with its own identity. Usually, when you take inspiration from famous band (in this case Rhapsody and Luca Turilli) it's really difficult to find a personal trade-mark and, in the end the composer looses is own personality trying to imitate his sources of inspiration... but it's not this case!
Tracks such as "Ancient Folks of the North" and "Escape From the Frost" are the best example of what I'm talking above and for this reason, for me, they are the best of the entire work: the first because there are the best from that you can find in folk/prog rock/symphonic metal/power metal in one piece six minutes long; the second because guitars, strings and brass fight each-others making one of the best instrumental battle that I've ever heard!
What I love about this release:
It's instrumental but it doesn't seem so, Antonio makes each song exciting and emotional anyway!
What I hate?
Unfortunately it's not available on physical format and I found this really sad... Having the map and the story in a printed booklet it's quite better and sometimes I'm buying a CD that costs 20 bucks and there's only album credits within, not even the lyrics, which is quite frustrating so, having this opera in printed digipak artwork could be awesome!