Epic Heavy Metal from Canada
Much like the Gorgon of ancient Greek mythology, Tales of Medusa are a band with a shroud of mystery and legend behind them. When they were still active, this Canadian based epic heavy metal band operated like no one else. The band members went by pseudonyms, there was no promotion of the material by the band, they avoided record labels like the plague, and there was no conventional way to obtain their music. The only way to get in touch with the band was through what is a now defunct email address. To get their music, all you had to do was reach out to them yourself and they would send you the vinyl or tape free of charge.
Tales of Medusa wanted to make it so that only truly interested metal fans could find their music. Their secretive approach has drawn them varying degrees of backlash in underground circles. It’s important to keep in mind that the band was ultimately sending out physical media and shipping to countries all around the world completely out of pocket, thus explaining the extremely limited pressings. Regardless of what the opinions of their tactics are, Tales of Medusa have become cult legends in their own right.
Tales of Medusa play an intriguing take on epic heavy metal that while deeply rooted in the Manilla Road vein, is almost entirely unique to them. In order to understand Triumphant Serenade, it is important to know the origin of their name. Tales of Medusa is lifted directly from a song title off of Dark Age (US)’s self-titled EP. This is Dark Age’s only release, but it is hailed by many in USPM circles (myself included) as one of the genre’s best offerings. It’s a high energy and charismatic take on US power metal where each song on it is unique and filled to the brim with character. The song “Tales of Medusa” in particular is one of the slower, more mid-paced numbers on that EP. With its more deliberate pacing, a grand song structure, and melancholic vocals; it feels far more like an epic heavy metal track than the rest of the EP. Imagine an entire album with songs similar in style and layout to that particular track – we wouldn’t be too far off of Tales of Medusa’s debut, Triumphant Serenade.
The band’s strength undoubtedly lies with their superb songwriting. The songs are all varied in structure, style, and influence while maintaining fluidity. From the mid paced “The Gates of Tartarus” to the doom-laden “Dionysian Procession” to the fast-paced “Lycanthropy“, not once does this record get boring. More importantly, never does Triumphant Serenade sound disjointed. All these different sounds fit together like puzzle pieces to form one monolithic offering of epic heavy metal. Clocking in at forty-two minutes and with eight tracks, this album is the perfect length for this style of heavy metal. It’s long enough to explore a number of different musical paths as Tales of Medusa so elegantly did, but short enough to keep your attention.
The guitarist/bassist, “Axe Massakkar”, lives up to his tongue-in-cheek pseudonym as he delivers memorable riff after memorable riff. The guitar riffs and solos are so good that I often find them stuck in my head days after listening to Triumphant Serenade. I can be months in between listens and when I return to this album, it’s as if I just listened to it yesterday. “Sarpedon Knight”, the band’s vocalist, isn’t quite your conventional vocalist. He’s emotional in his delivery, but is more relaxed than his peers. In a more typical power or traditional metal band, his vocal delivery might have fallen a bit flat. However, as proven by bands like Manilla Road and Longings Past, epic heavy metal is a genre where unconventional vocalists can shine if given the proper band. There’s nothing fancy about the production on Triumphant Serenade, but given the limited tools of the band it’s surprisingly clear. The mix is done pretty well with an emphasis on bringing the vocals to the front.
Tales of Medusa – a band who wanted it to be about nothing but the music itself. Music that is entirely removed and untainted by the mainstream. Anonymity not for the sake of creating a false hype, but to remove association. No one will listen because of who is in the band or what label they’re on, just for the merit of the music. Free physical media, completely out of pocket, to ensure that money is not a hindrance or requirement to enjoy their music. I think this is a band that is very easy to misinterpret. It’s simple to look at this whole thing and go “this is just a gimmick”, but believe me when I say that Tales of Medusa are the real deal. This is pure heavy metal with all the other bullshit removed.
Album Rating: 96/100
Favorite Track: The Gate to Tartarus
Drew · September 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm
Killer write up as always Marco. I started listening to this band about a month ago and they’re truly otherworldly.
Marco · September 4, 2018 at 10:41 pm
Thanks Drew! Both of their albums are fantastic and the demos/7″ have some great stuff that never made it onto their albums as well.
BW · September 2, 2018 at 4:44 pm
Absolutely adore this band, man. Great review! Funny thing is that they used to reach out to people to get them to take down reviews because they didn’t even want that exposure, but if they’re not around to speak up themselves anymore, I say it’s fair game 😉
Marco · September 4, 2018 at 10:45 pm
I would be ecstatic if a verified member of Tales of Medusa reached out to me! Since it’s likely that won’t happen, this review will stay up 🙂
Tom Turboponey · October 8, 2018 at 8:04 am
Hi Marco, just read your review on M.A. which led me here. It’s a great chronicle indeed. I got to know T.O.M. 4-5 years ago through a friend. I instantly fell in love with their music. I intensively made researches, just because, as a musician myself, dedicated to metal since decades, I could not accept some stupid hipster theories about the band. To find the answer, you must first know where to look. Just go 15 years back in time in Vancouver. There is actually one band which curiously had the same heavy metal inspirations like Manilla Road, Maiden or Fates Warning, but more-over their guitar player has a 95% similar riffing and songwriting as a regular T.o.M. song. If no coincident enough, the band was using similar lyrical themes and a similar production and distribution approach. In short my conclusions are the Tales of Medusa was a side project from the band as know as Antiquus. If not done, check their 2005 album Ramayana, and come back to me with our impressions. Thank you so far again for your review. It truly honor the legacy of this band. Cheers from France. Tom
Marco · October 29, 2018 at 11:48 am
Thanks for the incredibly thorough and researched answer! I know we discussed this a bit on Facebook, but I wanted to bring the discussion publicly as well. I’m really intrigued by your finding here and I was wondering if you have any further thoughts on it. From what I see, the guitarist on Ramayana left after that album. What members of Antiquus do you propose were involved in Tales of Medusa?
Dave · March 31, 2020 at 3:34 am
I have to agree, even listening to Antiquus 2011 effort, it’s VERY likely a side project. Love it! Thank you!!!