1990 was a pretty strange time for epic heavy metal, especially for Greece. The early 80s saw the beginning of epic metal, with releases from the grandfathers, Manilla Road and Manowar, as well as some lesser known acts, such as Legend and Dark Quarterer. The mid-to-late 80s saw a small wave of derivative acts, such as Baron Steele, Valkyrie, and Martiria, spring up in various locations (mostly from the U.S. and Italy). The movement would start to pick up again in the early-to-mid 90s, with acts like Longings Past, Wotan, and Crush, but ’89-’92 was a pretty barren time for Mediterranean epic metal; the founding fathers were mostly broken up, and the second wave hadn’t taken off yet for the most part. Enter Greece’s Ageless Wisdom. Very little is known about the band other than that they formed, released a two-song demo in 1990, and then vanished from the face of the earth, all at pretty much the worst time for epic heavy metal since its creation.
Thankfully, that demo was pretty damn good. Being 1990, metal as a whole was still going pretty strong, as grunge and nu metal hadn’t come in yet to take over. Whether this was a factor in Ageless Wisdom’s sound is hard to say, although I can say that there was a higher percentage of quality bands before 1992 than after, at least in the traditional metal sphere. However, I’m of the inclination that Ageless Wisdom weren’t after financial success, as in 1990, the only epic heavy metal band who enjoyed even remote commercial success was Manowar. No, Ageless Wisdom seemed to have a different motivation – a love for epic metal’s other founders, Manilla Road, and a desire to fashion similar music. This is especially evident in singer Sotiris Poulidis, who sounds something like a cross between Pagan Altar’s Terry Jones and Crystal Logic-era Mark Shelton, if both of them had a severe sinus infection. As such, he’s an extremely difficult singer to enjoy, but if you’re one of the few who can – which is more likely if you enjoy Shelton and/or Jones – it’s well worth it. While not quite as good as either of the other frontmen, he definitely holds his weight, especially in the fantastic track, “After the Gates”.
The music is fairly unique, but it does bear a strong resemblance to Manilla Road’s Crystal Logic – however, since that particular album hasn’t had many imitators (and it had even less in 1990), I can hardly see that as a bad thing. I’d be reaching to call this derivative, as Ageless Wisdom add plenty of their own elements to the mix, supplementing with eerie acoustics on “After the Gates”, and leanings toward US power metal on both songs. The songs are also fairly progressive, a bit more so than Crystal Logic, which in this case is to their benefit. “After the Gates” starts off with the aforementioned mystical, eerie, and arcane intro, proceeding to break into some midpaced power metal. The rest of the song sounds something like a cross between Manilla Road and Blind Assassin – although I do realize that’s a pretty damn obscure reference, that’s about the best comparison that can be made.
“A Kingdom Without a Name” is closer to traditional epic metal, with some dual leads reminiscent of NWOBHM, and unfortunately a significantly more annoying performance from Poulidis, who sounds like a psychotic but heavily congested Terry Jones here. That may be a compliment to some people, but by my count it definitely isn’t; while Poulidis isn’t terrible here, he does detract somewhat from the song, making it significantly inferior to “After the Gates”. However, it’s definitely still solid and worth listening to at least once, to judge whether or not a psychotic and congested Terry Jones would be worth hearing. Overall, the demo is quite good, especially for epic heavy metal. If you like Manilla Road or Pagan Altar, this is a must-have.
Favorite Track: After the Gates