Vesperia – The Swordsman Demo (Self-released, 01 May 2012)
Ladies and Gentlemen, if you’ve been paying attention to this blog over the past month, you’ve seen the name Vesperia a few times. That’s because this newly-renamed band has put together a brand-new demo to reintroduce themselves to the world, and each week throughout the month of May, they released a new track for free.
Well, now that they’ve all been made available, the whole four-track package can now be downloaded for free (or any price you choose), for your convenience. There’s also more stuff on the horizon for these guys — including a newly-added tour date and an upcoming live DVD!
So I’ve taken this opportunity to collect all the information I’ve previously shared about the band, combined it with the new stuff, and while I’m at it, I’ll say a few words about the music contained in the demo. Which, again, you can go download for free. Ready? Here we go…
After five years in existence, which included a pair of demos, an EP, and one full-length (2011’s Voyage from Vinland), Toronto-based Celtic/pagan/folk/symphonic/blackened-thrash band Bolero have ceased to be. At least under that name. The band recently announced that they are re-naming themselves Vesperia — which, according to bassist/vocalist Morgan Rider, “means ‘of the land of the evening star’ and the word ‘Vesperia’ was one of the proposed names for Canada before our country’s name was decided upon.”
I’ll be honest with you: I had never heard of Bolero until I saw the news about this name change and the announcement about The Swordsman demo. I don’t know how they stayed under my radar, since symphonic pagan black folk is something I really tend to enjoy, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve found them now.
Anyway, the old name doesn’t really conjure images of anything Celtic or Canadian, so the new one seems much more suitable. It works well with the imagery of Viking longboats pulling up to the shores of Newfoundland, or something like that, which appears to be what the band is aiming for.
When you think about symphonic pagan/folk metal, probably the first word that comes to mind is “epic” — you expect a big sound and grandiose arrangements, and The Swordsman doesn’t disappoint. Right from the opening of the title track, we’re treated to a huge, orchestral sound, with riffing to match. The vocals here are somewhere on the spectrum between a blackened rasp and a brutal death gutteral growl — coming across like, perhaps, the undead spirit of a powerful warrior? The chorus brings a harmonized pagan/viking refrain of clean voices, and touches of piano round out the folky elements.
One of the things that strikes me about the opening track is the hollow “thunk” of the snare drum, and the faster-paced “Huntress” with its humppa-esque two-step beat really emphasizes it even more. The sound makes me think more of beating a hollow log than a modern drum, which (whether or not this was intentional) makes sense with the overall aesthetic here.
Approaching eight minutes in length, “To Times End We Ride” raises the bar of epicness even higher, incorporating some folk instrumentation such as (as far as I can tell) violin, mandolin, and possibly a melodica, throughout the lengthy introduction. The vocals finally enter near the halfway point in the track, again embodying a powerfully croaked blackened death snarl, but only last for a couple short verses. The last few minutes of the song are once again instrumental — with guitar riffs that sound triumphant, and then gloomy, and then triumphant again.
Finally, the EP closes with the much more subdued “A Silence Prolonging (In Longing),” consisting of a folky strummed acoustic guitar, with occasional accents from a mandolin, as well as all clean vocals, forming a fairly dark-sounding ballad. In a few spots, I’m not entirely convinced all the harmonized vocal parts are exactly in the same key, but after all it is supposed to be a demo recording; on a similar note, the song doesn’t quite seem to have an actual ending, as there are a few plunks on the mandolin following the last vocal line and then it just seems to fade out. But when everything does come together properly, as it does throughout most of the track and especially on that last line, there are hints that this could be a rather chilling chanty, promising enough to leave this listener anxious to see what will be in store for this band as they move forward…
Download the four-track demo (FREE or name your own price) here:
Finally, as I’ve mentioned before, the band is currently in the midst of a tour across Ontario. I’ve listed the few remaining tour dates below for you Canadian readers, including one new addition in Toronto tomorrow night — where Ax Media will be on-hand to film the show for an upcoming DVD!
‘For the Glory of the Swordsman’ Tour Dates:
Check out this interview with the band, courtesy of The Core of Brutality!