They Came Over The High Pass
Released: 1999, Necropolis Records
Defender. A classic Manowar song, and soon to be a well-known band. Truth be told, I haven't heard traditional heavy metal played this well, and with originality in quite some time. Go ahead kiddies, put your Hammerfall CD's away, this is the real thing. (ed note: dude the HammerFall CD's ain't going anywhere hehe!)
Welcome to the wonderful world of one Philip Von Segebaden and his one-man project known as Defender. At this point I must…resist urge…to…slam…one-man…projects… Yeah, I know, there are some good ones out there (take Falkenbach for instance), but more often than not, one-man projects come off as just that - projects. Not carefully thought out band statements. While Segebaden plays everything on here except the drums, the production and tightness of the playing help the album to sound more like a real band than a project.
Taking a musical cue from Iron Maiden (who else?), Defender takes the trad-metal formula, gives it a good shake, and comes out with something a little different. A lot of the difference comes in the vocals of Michael Van De Graaf. His vocals are hard to pin down, but sound like a mix between Blaze Bayley, Graham Bonnet, and someone else I can't think of at the moment. It's a nice change to listen to trad-metal without hearing dog-whistles going off in the middle of the music, as Graaf's vocals are more growled than screamed. Although, for the future, I'd have to say that Graaf needs to vary his attack a bit, as his growling can be trying to listen to after awhile.
Everything on this album is written by Segebaden, and his love for the metal form shines through on each track. The full-out gallop of "Siege Of Armengar" opens the album, but quickly gives way to the soaring epic "High Himalayan Valley". Meanwhile, "Dragon" mixes both styles as Segebaden wails away on his six-string while Graaf's vocals glide over top. The only song that needs to go away (and quickly I might add) is "City In The Clouds". Yeah, it rocks pretty heavily, but its lyrics are SO out of place. The rest of the album is about snow, battle, blood, and more snow. But "CITC" is about…Bespin??? Yeah, that's right, 'ole Lando's floating city from Empire Strikes Back. Just ugly.
That being said however, this album is a definite keeper. The riffs are catchy as hell, and Segebaden's do-it-yourself ethic is obvious, and it endears the album. Do yourself a favour and pluck this diamond in the rough from the quickly declining Necropolis catalogue.