One thing that’s missing from modern power metal is a strong neoclassical outfit. Most bands either go the super-clean, super-fast route a la DragonForce, towards catchy commercialism, or symphonic metal. Now, this is no problem for me, because I eat, sleep, and breathe power metal, but the days of good neoclassical metal seem to have died out by the mid-00s. Bands like Narnia and Dark Moor have long since moved away from their glory days, and new bands either lack the quality or the skill necessary to actually make an imprint.
However, Italy’s latest effort of neoclassical metal makes quite the statement. Formed in 2018, Ancient Knights deliver a sound that’s actually very similar to pre-Dark Moor Dark Moor, minus a few bpm. Their first album, Camelot, is a seven-track (five, if you disregard the orchestral intro/outro), but also comes with three bonus tracks, which are alternate language versions. As the title suggests, you can expect to be serenaded with cheery, magical King Arthury tales of wonder and mystery, highlighted by tasteful orchestrations.
Fortunately, the music holds up. Despite the main portion of the album only consisting of five songs, there’s a good amount of variety. All of the songs are snappy and exciting, so there’s no need to skip anything. Additionally, while the guitarwork isn’t quite on the level of an elite virtuoso band, it’s still damn impressive. Both the rhythm stuff and soloing are excellent, with some of the best of both coming in ‘Usurper’ and ‘Prophecy of the Magic Kingdom’. Likewise, the drumming is fucking killer. The beats are intricate and dynamic and keep the music exciting, despite having a slower tempo than you might expect from this style of music.
And then we get to the vocals. While they don’t outshine the other instruments, there are some huge names here that should be enough to get you excited about the album. Included in this massive list of guest vocalists are the mighty Fabio Lione (Rhapsody), Elisa Martin (Dark Moor), Chiara Tricarico (Moonlight Haze), Gabriel Tuxen (Seven Thorns), and Roberto Tiranti (Odyssea). As you might have guessed, a lot of Camelot‘s sound rides on nostalgia, but that’s not a bad thing at all. These vocalists, combined with Ancient Knight’s own Matt Siddi, provide the best possible face over already-masterful arrangements.
My favourite track has to be ‘Prophecy of the Magic Kingdom’. Aside from the incredible guitars and rampant drums, it also features Elisa, who happens to be one of my favourite vocalists. Combine this with the best solo section on the album and an energetic double-time beat and you get the best Dark Moor song since 2002.
My only complaint with this album is how short it is. In all honesty, I don’t know why the fuck the band doesn’t consider this an EP, but I suppose it’s long enough if you count the three alternate tracks. I really hope that Ancient Knights don’t end up just being a one-release band, because the potential here is limitless. Any fan of old school power metal should be eager for this one.