Tuesday, September 21, 2021

CD Odyssey Disc 1506: Eternal Champion

I’m tired and bit worn down today, but my week doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, so I better get this review out to you while I still can.

Disc 1506 is….  Ravening Iron

Artist: Eternal Champion

Year of Release: 2020

What’s up with the Cover? That is not the cover above – just the band’s logo. The cover comes with a warning (see full description below).

The cover you’re not seeing has pretty much every fantasy novel trope you can imagine and then some. It has not one, but two voluptuous women, a throne, a pyramid of skulls, a giant snake AND a dragon all crammed into one over-the-top painting courtesy of artist Ken Kelly. I’m pretty sure one of the women is in charge (she’s seated on a throne and gesturing imperiously). However, she either runs an empire where the climate is very hot or clothing is in short supply, because both her and her servant girl are mostly nude, and 100% topless.

Given all the casual nudity, I wasn’t sure if this was too racy for Blogspot, so I haven’t posted it as I usually would. I considered censoring it with some strategically placed black strips, but that’s not how I roll either. Instead, you have a choice – you can settle for my description above, or if forewarned you decide you still want to see it for yourself, you can visit Eternal Champion’s Bandcamp site here and do just that.

How I Came To Know It: I discovered the band through a review, but I bought it through Bandcamp, where Eternal Champion teased that they would periodically put up 25 CDs at a time for purchase and to “keep checking back.” I did exactly that, for several months, in fact, only to find it sold out again and again. I was about to lose faith when I saw it was finally in stock, and quickly ordered one. I’m glad I got one when I did, because even that offer is now over, and it is digital only.

When my CD arrived it came with a bonus lapel pin featuring the cover I describe above. Guaranteed to spice up any outfit. Thanks for the swag, Eternal Champion!

How It Stacks Up: I have two Eternal Champion albums, this one and “The Armor of Ire” from 2016. I love them both pretty equally, but I’ll give the edge to “Ravening Iron”.

Ratings: 4 stars

I don’t know what’s in the water down there, but Texas is making some killer heavy metal these days. Eternal Champion is my latest discovery from the Lone Star State, and like my previous obsession (The Sword) they play a form of metal called “New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal” or NWOTHM.

To witness NWOTHM is to revel in metal’s origins of power chords, heavy thump and anthemic melodies, and Eternal Champion is as good as any at all these ingredients.  These songs are chock full of crunchy riffs, galloping beats and drums (courtesy Arthur Rizk) that thunder at you like the charge of a company of heavy horse with lances lowered.

These are not complicated songs, but dear gods, are they ever played with gusto. These guys will make you want to swing your hair at every traffic light or crosswalk. The tunes crash down like heavy surf, battering and invigorating you at the same time. John Powers’ guitar solos are not complex, but he plays them with impeccable timing and energy, knowing just when to come back to the main tune for another round of mosh pit merriment. His riff on the opening track, “A Face in the Glare” is particularly awe inspiring, but the album has plenty more where that came from.

According to the liner notes singer Jason Tarpey is also responsible for “war horn” and “hammer & anvil”. I can’t comment on those, but his vocal style is reminiscent of Rob Halford. He doesn’t have the chops of Halford, but he has that same staccato delivery and high vibrato. He sings a bit back in the mix, which lets the band shine as a unit. It also adds an element of otherworldliness to his delivery, as though he’s singing to you from the other side of a dimensional portal.

That effect is intensified by the subject matter of the songs, which ring out like a fantasy adventure throughout. There is plenty of sword fighting, ancient gods and references to people and places that I mostly haven’t heard of (Vagar, Arhai) and failed to successfully Google. However, I did recognize “Worms of the Earth” as a Robert E. Howard fantasy story I read as a youth.

Eternal Champion read a lot of the same stuff (their band name is a reference to the main character of a host of books by sixties fantasy writer Michael Moorcock). They wear these influences on their sleeves, and the record has much sword fighting, sorcery and pillaging throughout. With songs titled “Banners of Arhai” and “War at the Edge of the End” you can expect more than a little lyrical excess, but if you like that sort of thing (which I do) you’ll happily get your fill.

The record is over after only eight songs and 37 minutes, but while short, it is a lovely bit of escapism throughout. That said, the music, like the cover, is not for everybody, so be prepared for a serious journey into metal if you brave this one.

Best tracks: A Face in the Glare, Skullseeker, War at the Edge of the End, Worms of the Earth, Banners of Arhai

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