I think nearly everyone reading this will be able to relate to the experience of stumbling onto a new band and being completely wowed by the fact that modern bands can sound fresh while also writing songs of such incredibly high quality.
This was my initial impression of Vultures Vengeance, when I first heard theirWhere the Time Dwelt In EP in 2016. It felt like they had mixed Manilla Road’s riffing approach in with Pagan Altar’s affinity for magical (and mythical) leads, and topped it off with almost Tim Baker-style vocals. It never felt forced, or like they were trying too hard to sound like any of those influences. It was natural, like this specific style of Epic Metal is what they were always meant to do. They filtered these influences through their own little Italian funnel, and that’s what really made them a special band.
Unfortunately, this EP was a bit overlooked when it came out in 2016. Partly forgivable, considering the wealth of good heavy metal that came out that year. But I truly feel it stands up to almost every other 2016 release, and I’ve eagerly awaited more from them. I was convinced they’d become my absolute favorite modern band with more releases.
Last year, they dropped another EP, Lyrids: Warning from the Reign of the Untold, with only two tracks that were leftovers from Where the Time Dwelt In . The riffs were as killer, leads still beautiful and evocative, the vocals were as vicious, and the production remained perfect. Could these Italian wizards do any wrong? They were well on their way to being a very important band in modern Heavy Metal. All we really needed was a strong full length. And now, we’ve finally gotten it – The Knightlore comes three years after the first EP with eight whole tracks of delicious Vultures Vengeance goodness.
The first song “A Great Spark from the Dark” starts off with just the sort of lead section we’ve all come to expect from this band. It’s wonderful in its slow buildup, and really sets the mood for the rest of the album. However, as it progresses, you begin to realize there’s a slight shift in styles here. This is not as reminiscent of the more epic, haunting older bands as the previous EP’s were. While slightly more straightforward, it still retains a lot of the qualities that made them so charming.
There definitely are parts that would fit in perfectly with the EP’s. The riff midway through “Pathfinder’s Call”, with just the guitars, is a perfect example. Similar epic, dark, and almost melancholic riffs are scattered throughout the album. However, if you go into this expecting exactly the same style as the EP’s, you might need a re-listen or two to get fully accustomed to the departure in songwriting from their earlier material. Once you do though, this is an incredibly rewarding album to listen to. It has honestly gotten better each time I’ve listened to it.
The leads on this album deserve a best supporting role award or something. They’re probably my favorite part of it. Both the Tony’s of the band do such an excellent job of making them as elegant and complimentary to the riffs as possible. Do you remember the first time you heard Pagan Altar’s Mythical & Magical album and your jaw dropped when the first lead part of “Samhein” hit? It had a sort of atmosphere-building quality to it, and that’s what some of the lead parts on The Knightlorehave as well. Now, I’m not suggesting they’re of as high quality as the Pagan Altar stuff, but they’re as close as any newer band has gotten.
Another aspect that sets this band apart is production. Do you find yourself displeased or mildly annoyed by clean, modern production? There’s absolutely none of that here. Vultures Vengeance have always been in the elite class of newer bands that truly nail it in the production department, along with Demon Bitch and anything Arthur Rizk touches. I think my only real criticism of this effort is that it sacrifices a bit of the epic flair of their earlier material, which is what made Vultures Vengeance truly special. That’s a bit unfair though since the change in style has not really resulted in much compromise of quality at all.
The Knightlore has been one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite release so far this year, and the band continues to amaze me. While I don’t think its quite as good or unique as the first EP was, it’s an excellent addition to their immensely strong discography. This year seems set to be as good as 2016 was, by sheer volume of excellent expected heavy metal releases- and I truly hope this doesn’t get as unfairly overlooked as the first EP did in that year.
Album rating: 92/100
Favorite Song: Chained by the Night