Gales Of Avalon
Released: 2011, Indie
In 2011 the Canadian Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences (CARAS) made an announcement of interest to the Canadian Metal community. Namely they announced that after a 17-year hiatus, Canada’s national music recognition program (aka the Juno Awards) would be rejoining the rest of the civilized world and re-establishing the Metal Category for the 2011. By the time this review goes to publication, it is possible they will have announced the final nominees for the category, with the winner to be presented the award at the end of April, 2012. In the spirit of supporting underground Canadian Metal I’ve decided to do a spotlight on some Canadian acts. I feel these are some excellent Metal records from across Canada. The other artists in this spotlight are Anonymus, Demisery, Final Darkness, Magnetic, Morningless, Nephelium and Villianizer. Feel free to read the reviews of these albums.
After a promising independent, debut EP back in 2008, Calgary's Gales of Avalon have released their long- awaited full length debut BLACK ISLAND. The phrase 'long-awaited is so overused that it practically lost all meaning when you see the term used constantly in press releases for bands no one has ever heard of, on every third news story on Blabbermouth.net.
However to the local Metal community in Calgary the term 'long-awaited' does carry meaning because this has been a three-year labour of love. Founder, Matt Dillon had been working on this project for ages, watching it, and the band, evolve. Gales bassist James Neil is also co-founder and co-host of Extreme Metal TV (and a well known local Metal fan) and so they eyes and ears of the local scene have indeed been waiting to see if this quartet could live up to the expectations set by the debut EP. I'm glad to say it was worth the wait.
BLACK ISLAND is a concept album spanning eleven tracks and across 45 minutes tells the story of two young men in search of gold and glory on the high seas. As the tale unravels, the plot morphs into a combination shipwreck survival/ ghost story including a descent into madness on the mysterious Black Island. I’ve always enjoyed albums that have nautical themes. The storyline goes well beyond the simple Alestorm/Swashbuckle pirate-type thing as Gales of Avalon joins bands like Wuthering Heights, Saint Deamon, Carach Angren, and Savatage others who have tackled this broad and interesting theme. Mutinies are Metal!
Sonically, Gales Of Avalon have a fairly unique sound to Alberta, a sound and style that is more akin to something you hear more frequently in Europe. More specifically, BLACK ISLAND is an excellent blend of Death, Thrash and Power with certain, I hate to say 'Celtic', but a certain pagan/folk sensibility that recalls Suidakra or at a stretch, Cruachan. Where these influences come from are not just as blatant as dropping in a fiddle solo but more from the progressive song-writing elements.
One of the highlights for me is the wide range of vocal styles; some Death roars, some guttural stuff, some dark and ominous narration, all of these fine vocal tonal qualities and variations are laced through the songs adding valuable atmosphere to the dark storyline. It seems that everyone in the band adds some vocals! The vocal delivery and execution remind me of another concept story-teller supreme, King Diamond, but without the shrieking highs.
For a first effort it's a professional job. The CD comes with a good-looking booklet, photos, notes etc and the full story can be found on-line. The production is great, lots of nuances and subtlety within the arrangements. The fact that the founder, Mark once called Newfoundland (Canada's own Black Island?) home, the cover art and story make sense. Maritime Metal doesn't get any better than this.