I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Vanquisher – An Age Undreamed Of
Label: Stormspell Records
Genre: Epic Heavy/Power Metal
Run Time: 55:50, 11 Tracks
Straight outta Hyboria (well, actually from Malmö, Sweden), comes Vanquisher, the latest addition to the Stormspell Records roster, and they just wanna crush their enemies, see them driven before them, and hear the lamentations of their women. Does it get any more metal than that, kiddies? I think not.
Like a Scandinavian GWAR, this muscle-bound, sword swingin', axe flingin' quintet have all adopted stage names (inspired by the works of Conan creator Robert E. Howard) and sport a menacing, fur-draped barbarian image that makes Manowar look like a bunch of cuddly Fraggles. Let the word go forth to the masses, there's a new horde in town. All hail Wulfhere The Executioner (bass), Gorm of the Pounding Hooves (drummer), Heimdal the Warlord (guitars), Horsa the Untamed (guitars), and Niord of Nordheim (vocals)!
Vanquisher has been kicking around since 2014 and have a 3 song EP (2017's A Demonstration of Power) and two singles (2019's Shadows Over Stygia and 2022's Storming Vanarium) under their studded belts, but An Age Undreamed of is their debut full length recording.
It's a classy, heavy, melodic blast of fist-in-the-air fantasy/power metal that brought back pleasant memories of watching Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan movies and poring over Marvel's classic Conan comic books as a kid (hail, Roy Thomas and John Buscema!). Press "play" on this album, and you too may learn the Riddle of Steel!
My Robert E. Howard-ese is a little rusty, but An Age Undreamed of clicked with me from the very first note. It's packed full of meaty, galloping rhythms, shredding guitar work, soaring, over the top vocals and manly-man, everyone-raise-your-mug-of-Mead-and-sing-along choruses.
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Starting off with an approprately moody, cinematic spoken-word introduction, "Nemedian Chronicle," An Age Undreamed of kicks into high gear with the first track proper, the triumphant, mid-paced gallop "The Pride of Aquilonia." Vocalist "Niord" has an easy on the ears, rough n' ready delivery in the Dickinson or DiAnno tradition, but he can also turn on the Halford switch when it's needed, as in the opening seconds of the killerspeed burner "Storming Venarium."
The victory-or-death march of "Ode To The Slain" crunches along at a skull-crushing tempo and the chunky "Reaver" is a badass, four-on-the-floor thrash-out that will have the headbanger brigades shedding serious dandruff in the pit. The album's mid-point highlight is the slow n' moody "Cimmeria" (that's Conan's home town, y'know), which features lots of tasteful guitar picking ala Iced Earth or Accept. This six-minute melodic epic provides a nice break from the musical mayhem thus far, but don't get too comfortable, because it leads into the swirling maelstrom of "Trapped In Shamu's Plain," which I'm going to assume is not about the famed Sea World killer whale.
"Battleborn" and "Savage Sword" are a pair of storming bursts of pure thrash metal energy (I especially like the irresistible "DIE! DIE! DIE!" chants in "Savage Sword") and the album closes with the chugging "Priests of Set" and the eight-minute-plus epic "Serpent God," which feels like the end-credit theme to a big budget fantasy film with its hills and valleys, going from melodic to doomy and back again at the drop of a hat. It's a twisting, thrilling way to end this barbaric campaign and left me wishing there was more!
Summing It Up
Obviously, there's a tongue-in-cheek element to bands like this, and your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for rock-warrior cheese, but I personally found Vanquisher's An Age Undreamed of to be great fun. It kept my head bobbin' along with every crunchy riff and made me want to re-visit Arnold's Conan flicks for the first time in umpteen years!
An Age Undreamed of should easily find favor with the loyal hordes who dig fantasy-inspired power/speed metal bands like Manowar, Wizard, Cirith Ungol, and Eternal Champion. In short, An Age Undreamed of is an impressive piece of poser-slayin' work. I hope that Vanquisher continues to hail, kill, and plumb Robert E. Howard's rich fantasy worlds for many more albums to come. Maybe next time they'll bring Red Sonja with them!
Collectors take note, Stormspell's CD pressing is limited to a mere 500 copies so if you want to snag this slab of primo sword swingin' bad-assery for yourself, you'd best act quickly!
© 2022 Keith Abt