(This is the second subpart of a fourth installment in DGR’s effort to catch up on reviews of 2019 releases he wants to recommend, with this 3-part fourth post devoted to melodic death metal. Today the subject is the debut full-length by the German band Fading Aeon, which was released on July 5th.)
At five songs and over forty minutes of material — with the Bandcamp download including an instrumental version of the title song if you really want to stretch — it was initially hard to place what exactly Fading Aeon’s A Warriors Tale was going to sound like. A Warrior’s Tale was released on the group’s Bandcamp in July, but became a victim of circumstance on my end and thus became a late-in-the-year discovery — one of the longer waits of any of these groups to become part of this review round up.
The three-piece could have been any number of things, with song lengths that stretched well into the nine-minute range, although their album art and logo suggested they probably weren’t a doom band. With a name like A Warrior’s Tale, my best guess would’ve been the sort of keyboard-and-guitar-interplay-heavy, folk-melodeath of a group like Wintersun. I seem to find one band every year that is really good that also really loves that particular slice of the melodeath scene and has absorbed heavy influence from it.
After a lot of listens to A Warrior’s Tale I can say that I was partly right, as Fading Aeon are an epic melodeath band, heavy on the keys and long song lengths — but not so reliant on speed as one might expect, instead favoring an approach that makes this trio sound massive, and with a pleasant surprise on the vocal front to boot.
There is no joke in saying this (and it has often been a trope in my reviews), but Fading Aeon cover some serious musical ground on A Warrior’s Tale. Bassist/Vocalist Christian Stauch – alongside bandmates David Gareis on guitar and Patrick Gareis on drums — has a hefty bellow befitting a more brutal death metal band, and uses it in sharp contrast to the massive wall of keyboard and guitar behind him. Fading Aeon do give into their flashier side from time-to-time, but A Warrior’s Tale was written so that each song is massive in scope and ambition.
The album isn’t really a highlight-reel of one specific driving rhythm riff or one excellent melodeath two-step (which doesn’t pop up all that often here, as Fading Aeon take a more prog-death approach to songwriting) as it is a gigantic collection of parts all woven together. Intro song “Fear My Name” for instance could’ve ended neatly on three separate occasions, but somehow Fading Aeon managed to find the best part befitting the continuation of that song each time. It stretches a little long, which does become a minor issue throughout A Warrior’s Tale, and “Fear My Name” winds up being the eight-minute initial hill-climb and map to future songs.
The album’s last three songs (before an instrumental version of “Fear My Name”) each clear the nine-minute mark with ease. “One Last Farewell” is the centerpiece at nine-minutes-and-fifty-three seconds, but the songs afterward clock in at a tiny bit over nine minutes and another one at nine-forty, and those three make it so that the whole experience feels like a journey after the initial two songs. Fitting, then, that the closer of A Warrior’s Tale is entitled “The Journey Ends”, as it ends both the album and what it feels like to be a listener when the final stringed-instrument orchestration concludes.
“One Last Farewell” does like much of A Warrior’s Tale does: It starts off fast before wandering in a variety of directions. It has a big and sweeping epic verse, a mid-section packed with orchestration, and a closing ambient section to really hammer home that you’ve covered some ground in the near-ten minutes you spent with that song.
It’s by circumstance that Fading Aeon find themselves bookended by Archons and (in tomorrow’s review) To Dust in this review collection, two bands whose approach to the collection-of-singles style melodeath are not only somewhat opposites of each other but also complete opposites of the epic wanderings of Fading Aeon. The ambition on display in this band’s debut takes some serious guts. Fading Aeon pack their album so full of music you would think that music was going out of style entirely and this was their one chance.
Their aim of writing giant song after giant song means that you can’t really pick out one standout single. Doing so would feel woefully incomplete due to the fact that each song is part of a massive whole. There’s some highlight moments for sure; the nine-minute-each grouping that is the back three tracks of A Warrior’s Tale is a lot of fun; and the aforementioned “One Last Farewell” feels like the whole CD condensed, with a fantastic opening riff. But A Warrior’s Tale becomes one of those discs that has to be undertaken as a journey all its own, with each part contributing to the epic-length tome that the album is.