Album: …Unto The Breach
Release Date: 3rd August 2019
Record Label: Unsigned
I’ve known Sellsword as a band and friends for a number of years now, so I was very happy when I asked them if they would like me to do a pre-release review and they said yes. I’ve always thought that they should be gracing far bigger stages than they currently do, so any way I could help to get a bit more hype around album number two, I was happy to help! As a disclaimer, I have been told that the tracks I received were not absolute final mixes (although pretty close), so I will not be commenting too much on where the instruments are in the mix as this very well may change!
I think I heard the first track, Pendragon, at their Warhorns Festival 2018 appearance (I was a little too drunk on cherry mead at this point), and in my vague memory I remember it being a good track. It seems fairly unusual to me now that power metal bands start with a full throttle track, rather than the now more common orchestral introduction that builds up mysticism and wonder. For me, it’s a nice change to not mess about and head straight into the grit of it. The introducing instrumental actually reminds me of Sabaton (no bad thing at all!), and you feel a sense of triumph. Stu’s vocals sound the strongest I have heard them yet, and there is of course the classic Sellsword gallop.
Inquisitor is a track that Sellsword have been playing at their live shows for a while now (see the video below and my Bloodstock Festival review Part 2 for more details). It’s a very synth heavy track (let slip the dogs of synth!). It’s a much slower pace with a marching tempo compared to Pendragon, but the chorus picks up. There is so much synth in this track, and of course the gallop.
I feel like I’ve travelled back to the 80’s with the introduction of Buccaneers, as it reminds me of an epic TV theme. Again, this is no bad thing for me, I’m a sucker for that kind of thing! A rarity among the metal scene, we have a power metal song about pirates! Well, Sellsword have been known to call themselves “Pirates of the Land”, so why shouldn’t they have a song about sea pirates? The pirate theme does come in with a nice spoken word and synth riff, it’s very jolly indeed!
The title track Unto The Breach finally brings us some of the familiar mystical, orchestral themes that are so often in the more fantasy based power metal albums these days. There are strings, followed by brass and percussion. Again we’ve got the gallop, with lots of background orchestral elements. There’s a quiet chorus before the elements build back up into the full instrumental again.
For those of a heavier metal disposition, Sagaborne might just appeal to you. It’s heavier on the guitars, with slow and heavy riffs, and there is more of a prog feel to this track. We’ve also got a “Hey!” chant for live performances, perfect for raising those foam swords in the air!
The next track I think has been in the making for a while, as I heard earlier versions many, many months ago now. There’s a strangely happy, upbeat synth melody considering the track is titled The Courage To Die, and then the guitars take over that same melody. We have some really long instrumentals in this track (one of my slight peeves with the album), chances for “Woah’s” before some guitar chugging, and we end with some nice, slowing tempo.
Heart of the Brave has a choral vocal to start, which I wish went on for a little while longer, and then the full band kicks in. It’s not quite a ballad, but it feels like this is the obligatory ballad-esque track for the album. There’s more emotion in this track, and there are some very slow sections which are perfect for lighters or phone lights to sway in the air to.
The finale, Blackened Sky, is an absolute monster of a track, it’s almost a mini album in itself. It’s a very long instrumental introduction which is heavy on the synth, and is hard and fast. The instrumental gets stripped down, and then built back up, and there are lots of different instrumental sections, with Stu’s vocals and spoken word popping in and out as it progresses. There are some very fantasy feeling sections which remind me of Dragonland, again no bad thing. The track finally ends with a piano, a fitting end to a rollercoaster of sound.
I am really pleased for the band as to how this has turned out. Even with not having the absolute final mixes, you can tell the quality is there, and has increased since their debut …And Now We Ride. The instrumentals sound much fuller and there’s no point where I feel like there’s just something missing. Despite the length of the tracks themselves, the album is more concise with only 8 tracks instead of the 13 on the debut. My only real gripe with this album is the length of the instrumentals, I feel like I think we’re about to lead onto another chorus or verse, and then the instrumental still goes on. I appreciate that the instrumentals are a part of telling the story and portraying the emotion behind those stories, but sometimes for me they go on just a little bit too long.
I’ll certainly now be pre-ordering a physical copy of the album when I get paid. Sadly, I will not be able to attend their album launch party in York on 3rd August, but if you are around, they are performing at The Fulford Arms, and you can get tickets here. Support comes from Dream Tröll and Vice.
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Listen to Sellsword on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5dyxrQ5wTWXvhMz5eaEttp
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Sellsword website: http://www.sellsword.co.uk/