Album Title: The Saberlight Chronicles
Label: Scarlet Records
Date of Release: 15 July 2022
A brand-new UK-based power metal band? Yes please. The genre, it is fair to say, has been dominated by Europe and the US for many a year, so it would be great to have a new entity to help fly the flag for the UK alongside the likes of Dragonforce. The band that’s willing to throw their hat into the ring next, goes by the name of Fellowship, a quartet hailing from Harwich in Essex, just an hour away from me. And, if their debut album, ‘The Saberlight Chronicles’ is anything to go by, they might just become the more famous than the ferry port that links Blighty with our mainland European neighbours.
I completely missed the self-titled debut EP from the band, so I come at this review with little knowledge about Fellowship. I say that, but despite trying to ignore reviews elsewhere before completing mine, I have nevertheless picked up on the buzz that is being generated, so my expectations are slightly higher than they might otherwise have been. And, having had the opportunity to let the music marinate in my ears over the past few weeks, I have to say that the buzz is 100% justified.
I consider the likes of Rhapsody and Dragonforce as two of my favourite exponents of the power metal scene, alongside the likes of Helloween, Gamma Ray and many of the genre’s other bigger hitters. And what Fellowship have managed to do here is take the best parts of their influences and forge them into an album that’s so much fun, so full of energy, and so damn powerful – after all, isn’t that the idea of ‘power metal’? However, no quality power metal album would be complete without a sprinkling of cheese, and Fellowship do deliver here, albeit not in a way that is even remotely cringeworthy or toe curling in my opinion. If your heart is blacker than the night, and you only enjoy the heaviest and most evil of musical styles you may disagree of course; everyone else will almost certainly find something on ‘The Saberlight Chronicles’ to plant a giant grin of their faces.
In order to provide some meaningful context to the review at this stage, I would suggest that the biggest single reference point would be Rhapsody without it being even remotely clone-like; however, I hear the influence of Rhapsody within the exuberant compositions, and in the way that the music has a dramatic, cinematic, and fantasy feel to it.
But, speaking of the fantasy element of the material, I must spend a few moments on the lyrical content. Yes, ‘The Saberlight Chronicles’ is based on a fantasy story with swords and quests. However, having been furnished with a copy of the lyrics with the promo, it becomes clear that Fellowship are less interested in telling tales of dragons, elves, and magic. Instead, the lyrics are written from the perspective of what I believe to be the main protagonist, delving into his psyche and dealing with all sorts of more mundane but important human emotions, fears, and insecurities. I could pick out several examples across the album, but the song that screams out to me is ‘Oak And Ash’ which offers the following:
“All my hopes, they burden me
To give away the very hope that drives my self-belief.
If I don’t ask the question then I’m questioning the need,
Oh, no one’s ever needed strength like me!”
“Someone tell me am I worthy?…
…Be at peace,
Please help my heart release
All of this anxiety!
Someone tell me am I worthy?”
I cannot tell you how interesting and brave it is to tackle these ideas and topics within music, and vocalist Matthew Corry should take great pride in what he, as lyricist, has achieved here. The fact that he has a fantastic voice to bring his words to life creates the double whammy – he is such a charismatic vocalist, with a clean, smooth delivery, that carries plenty of emotion and gravitas, the perfect fit for the music on ‘The Saberlight Chronicles’
Speaking of ‘Oak And Ash’, not only does it succeed in the lyrical department, it also happens to be one of my favourite pieces of music on the album. From the beginning, it is one of the most instantly dramatic, melodic, and blisteringly fast songs that Fellowship deliver on the record. The sense of urgency is palpable, whilst the pace is a clever idea, underlining the way in which the human mind can race at a thousand miles an hour when suffering with anxiety. I certainly hope it was deliberate on the part of the band.
I may have picked out ‘Oak And Ash’ for initial special praise, but it is definitely the case that this entire album is packed full of mighty power metal compositions that are all equally worthy of their moment in the spotlight, all of which feature a fair amount of synth-led orchestration that never overpowers the material, ensuring that the music retains its metallic credentials sufficiently. You’ve probably already heard the lead song off the record, ‘Until The Fires Die’ and it’s the perfect opener – bright, breezy, cheeky, melodic, and full of fun, it opens with the words “come with me…” allowing us to enter the world that Fellowship have created for our enjoyment whilst perfectly preparing us for what is to come.
‘Atlas’ takes up the mantle of the opener, galloping along gleefully at the opportunity to do so. The drumming of Callum Tuffen, one of the key song writers lays down a precise and sharp beat that drives the song along brilliantly, solid one moment, double pedal-led the next. As with all of the tracks on the record, the guitar solos of Sam Bowne, another key song writer, and Brad Wosko are sublime affairs, full of dexterity, speed, and disarming melodiousness.
Elsewhere, ‘Hearts Upon The Hill’ kicks in with a hint of Iron Maiden in the lead guitar melodies, before settling into something a little darker and more brooding in the verses. The chorus is the kind that will ring out loud, proud, and defiant across the fields of summer festivals in the twilight in years to come, I have absolutely no doubt. Another favourite of mine, ‘The Hours Of Wintertime’ opens with a sombre but rich intro dominated by a gorgeous piano, and then ends with one of the best, most gloriously melodic and moving ending sequences, led by the repeated line of “And now I’m left here fighting on my own…” Stunning.
‘Silhouette’, meanwhile, is a quieter piece for the most part, part ballad, part West End musical number, whilst ‘The Saint Beyond The River’ revels in a much more pronounced folk-inspired feel. Naturally, even though I’m less of a folk metal fan, this song hits the mark too – it’s almost as if the magic within the fantasy world has seeped into the four musicians, such is their unwavering ability to craft superb power metal music. Even the nine-minute closing song, ‘Avalon’ doesn’t feel like it outstays its welcome, instead providing a fittingly rousing and grandiose finale.
Yes, ‘The Saberlight Chronicles’ could have been shorter than its one-hour run-time, but saying that, which one of the twelve songs could actually be cut from the album? I’m struggling to come up with an answer to my own rhetorical question if I’m honest, such is the consistency on display here. And importantly, the record doesn’t feel as long as it actually is, thereby further underlining its quality. Put as simply and succinctly as I can, I firmly believe that ‘The Saberlight Chronicles’ could be the best power metal album that I have heard in a really long time. As such, you all need to get your ears around this record as quickly as you can so that you can join the Fellowship…err…fellowship, a movement that can only gather pace and rightly so.
The Score of Much Metal: 95%
PREVIOUS 2022 REVIEWS: