Isle of Avalon
Of Tulgey Wood And The Table Rounde
1st October 2017 – Self-released
01. Questing Beast
02. Tulgey Wood
03. Tirra Lirra
04. Lyre of Lyonesse
06. Queen of Two Kingdoms
07. A Sword, A Horse, A Shield
08. True Born
10. The Castle Argent
I have a secret, and I’m sure quite a few doom and sludge fans share it too: I have a huge soft spot for power metal. When a new release from a homegrown UK band emerges it’s always an exciting, if private, affair. Except in this case, where I’m publishing a review on a publicly-accessible website.
Isle of Avalon play folksy power metal with a few extreme influences; there’s a distinct black metal undercurrent, and their style is grounded in riffs rather than wild virtuosic feats – though there are some of those too. There’s more than a little of Rhapsody‘s presence at play here, but a bit of Emperor too. The album expands over ten tracks, showcasing various arrangements; the male/female call-and-response on the extremely folksy “Lyre of Lyoness” is especially excellent, and later the riff-heavy style comes to a head with the sinister “Castle Argent“.
A uniquely English-sounding power metal record, Isle of Avalon wear their hearts firmly on their sleeves; this feels like an earnest celebration of literature and history. Who knew that Lewis Carroll would translate so well to power metal? It’s refreshing to see him and his uniquely absurd take on fantasy represented as a major influence; the primary audience for this is die-hard fantasy fans so this kinda thing matters. Especially enjoyable is how well the lyrics have been written; they’re extremely flowery but they’re both evocative and succinct, which helps the flow of narrative. Power metal traditionally has an abysmal lyrical standard, so it’s good to see they’ve made a particular effort here.
It has to be said there’s a significant departure from power metal recording conventions; the clear, crisp modern production has been eschewed for something quite a bit darker. This generally works well for the folk elements where it lends a bit of grit, but often the heavier elements feel like they could do with a bit more bite. Fortunately this never feels too stretched; there are no particular moments where it feels jarring, but it’s at odds with power metal’s traditional sound.
Generally though, any shortcomings this album may have are pretty much erased by how earnest the execution is. If you harbour a secret fondness for power metal but you’ve moved to more extreme genres, this may well be for you. It’s fun and a bit daft but sprightly and characterful. It warmed my black heart.