Atorc – Under The Raven Banner

Band: Atorc
Album: Under the Raven Banner
Release Date: 4th April 2019
Record Label: Unsigned

Those folk metal warriors from East Anglia, Atorc, have produced their first full length album. They had hoped to do this via Pledge (I won’t go into that story), but they have scraped together enough gold to fulfil everyone’s orders, and the album will be officially released on 4th April 2019. The artwork for the album was created by Hester Aspland Artwork.

This album starts with a wonderful intro track, Hrafansmerki. It is clear that there has been more time spent on the mastering of this album and the mix, as the quality is much better than their debut EP Seven Tales of Swords & Ale. There are strings and drums, and the instrumental has a sorrowful feeling to it. There is also some spoken word and choral vocals towards the end. The track has an RPG soundtrack feel, and leads nicely into the main body of the album.

The title track, Under The Raven Banner, comes in with guitar and drums, strings and keys. It is a track to headbang to with harsh vocals, which is not something we had on the EP. The clean vocals work well, and the instrumental as a whole feels much more complete and full. This confirms my opinion that there has been a definite quality upgrade during the recording and mastering process. The Mead Hall is another headbanging track and catchy. We start with a drums solo and the extremely fast violin work comes in. It sounds a little sloppy on recording, but having heard this track live it does work and sound really good. I also find at times that the clean vocals do not come across very well. This track recorded is a little disappointing for me, as I know live it sounds incredible.

Hammer to Anvil brings yet another catchy track to the album, and another opportunity for more headbanging. The strings and keys blend well together, and the vocals sound a lot better. There is an epic feel to this track and the instrumental is lovely. Maidens of the Shield has a strings heavy intro, but we’re soon back to the headbanging. The vocals sound great again, and there is more female vocal coming through this time.

Sovngarde, (clearly a Skyrim reference), is a short instrumental track which has a much calmer feel and a beautiful strings melody. It’s almost like you’re given a chance to catch your breath during the album.

Voice of the Storm is a little bit of a letdown for me. There is a good buildup of the instruments and there are overlapping guitar and string melodies that work really well, but again I’m not entirely sure the vocals fit, particularly melody wise. This may grow on me during future listens, but for a first time, it doesn’t quite work for me. Isle of the Brave is a slower paced track, bringing the tempo down again slightly.

Ragnarok has a slow intro with guitars and strings, and then builds once again into a heard, heavy track. There are prominent harsh vocals again, but again, I’m not completely sold on the clean vocals at times. It’s not that the sound is bad, it’s more than it doesn’t quite fit the instrumental for me personally. Shieldwall (the first single) brings Under the Raven Banner to an end, and it ends the album on a high. It’s the track that is most ripe for jiggy, headbanging, and generally getting into a bit of a mess on the dancefloor. The group vocals are great for audience participation (as demonstrated on several occasions live already), and it’s definitely a track that people will remember Atorc by in the future.

This album is a big step up for Atorc. Their first EP was, quite frankly, not great quality. This is very much rectified in this release, and there has clearly been a lot more time spent on the entire process; from writing, to mastering, to the artwork. However, with the higher quality, I expected a little more, particularly from the tracks they have already performed live. However, as I said before, there is a lot of potential in Atorc, I just feel that they need to iron out those few creases before they can truly launch into the more international folk metal community.

Verdict: 7.5/10

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