VEXILLUM – The Bivouac

Band:VEXILLUM
Title:The Bivouac
Genre:Folk / Power Metal
Year:2012
Label:Limb Music Products
Tags: , , , ,
Saturday, January 5, 2013 : 0 Comments

VEXILLUM, the name for the legionary banner of the Roman army which, carried before the troops, proudly bore the legion’s name. The band itself hails from Pisa in Italy and was formed in 2004 as SHADOW VEXILLUM. The following year, when the line-up became stable, a demo was recorded under the title “Tales”. To complement their Folk-influenced Power Metal, the guys wear Scottish kilts. Anno 2006 a new vocalist, Dario Vallesi, joins the band and together they start working on another demo, “Neverending Quest” (2007). At that time the band has changed its name to VEXILLUM. Several gigs and years later the Italians can finally commence work on their debut full-length, “The Wandering Notes”, which came out in early 2011 on My Graveyard Productions.

This first album leads to a first European tour in February 2011, supporting RHAPSODY OF FIRE. I know, because I’ve seen them at work in Charleroi, Belgium. They did well, though the road is still long. After the tour, another line-up change occurred (drums) and the new formation started working on their second album, “The Bivouac”, which came out on the 21st September 2012 via Limb Music Products. So yes, this review is overdue. 😉

“The Wanderer’s Note” is how it begins: horses, nature, birds… all very nice. And yes, we can hear footsteps, too, which is a necessity, else the most important element would be missing when you consider the song title. The music comes in similar to a starting engine. Folk/Power Metal with melodic/hymnic guitarwork is on offer. Typical for Italian Power Metal band: clean vocals contrasting with heavy music. It’s no different here and honestly, a somewhat heavier/rougher voice would have been better. The obligatory solo, halfway, is preced by a nice acoustic bridge. All in all, a very decent song to begin with. But it gets better as  “Dethrone The Tyrant” is played. No direct start, but the song is building, flowing over into firm midtempo Metal with a catchy rhythm. The chorus is a melodic pounder, whereas the middle section offers a slab of bombast, followed by the solo moment and so back to business ’till the end.

Another highlight is “Dancing Goddess”, for which the band returns to the woods to play they melodic Folk Metal – wait, it’s Folk, hence it’s melodic, right? Anyway, this quickly mutates into Power Metal with the typical fast double bass. The music gallops in the chorus, where of course you’ll find the Folk instrumentation and hand clapping. There’s even a violin solo. “The Oak And Lady Flame” is a semi-acoustic Folk Metal song; acoustic first, then going electric for the solo and rest of the song. It’s a power ballad with high-pitched singing… for which you need the right pair of ears. No, seriously, it’s annoying.

“The Hunt” has a jolly, acoustic Folk intro, after which fast Power Metal (with symphonic backing) kicks in. Add a hymnic chorus and the picture is complete. This is also one of the highlights, by the way. “The Dream” is another ballad with the emphasis on Folk and acoustic instrumentation. All in all, an ok song. “The Marketsquare Of Dooley” is entered through the woods and by the fire. Little by little the music comes into play, tension is created. Pounding Power Metal breaks out next, though there’s room for a visit, at which point the music becomes acoustic and a market scenario unfolds inside your ears. Of course, the song must carry on, which it eventually does. Another ok song, catchy as it is.

In “The Way Behind The Hill” the band travels to Scotland, to the Highlands. As you can imagine, the song is of the Folk Metal kind, alright. You could almost consider it as ELUVEITIE going Power Metal. But if I may add (once more), the singing isn’t exactly the most fitting element. Time for another highlight: “Valhalla”. Fast melodic Power Metal, similar to STORMWARRIOR and BLIND GUARDIAN. And another one: “Letter From The Earth”. As the lads were kilts, bagpipes are a must. And that’s what you get here, together with the owl in the woods. This is a hymnic tune, galopping and with acoustic passages. For “Megiddo” we travel to Israel. I went a bit too far, India, at first, but when I looked up Megiddo, my friend Google told me it lies in Israel. My first impression was solely based on the music that can be heard in the intro. After that it’s a midtempo, bombastic track comparable to how KAMELOT makes them. A job well done. And so is the last one: “The Last Inn”, which somehow made me think of “The Inn Of The Last Home” in Dragonlance (see here). Anyway, for this song one starts in the woods, near the campfire. Music is delivered by the violin and when you come rushing out of the woods, the fast, symphonic  Power Metal is activated. After a fierce battle with your pints, you have a chat with the locals and return to the woods, to your shelter, your bivouac (something like this).

Long story short: I was not blown away by VEXILLUM when I saw them live in February 2011. And it took me a while to appreciate their newest album, “The Bivouac”, due to other reasons, not necessarily the songs themselves. But after the required listens and rests, I can say this is quite a nice Folk/Power Metal album indeed. The production and compositions are well done. The only critique I have, as you have read above, concerns the vocals. They are high-pitched (and with accent, but that’s trivial), but often, in my humble opinion, it would be beneficial to the music if the singing was lower. Anyway, if you’re into ELVENKING, RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), BLIND GUARDIAN and so on, then you can safely add “The Bivouac” to your collection.

 

Tracklist:

  1. The Wanderer’s Note
  2. Dethrone The Tyrant
  3. Dancing Goddess
  4. The Oak And Lady Flame
  5. The Hunt
  6. The Dream
  7. The Marketsquare Of Dooley
  8. The Way Behind The Hill
  9. Valhalla
  10. Letter From The Earth
  11. Megiddo
  12. The Last Inn

 

Line-up:
Dario Vallesi – vocals
Andrea Galvanico – guitar
Michele Gasparri – guitar
Francesco Ferraro – bass
Efisio Pregio – drums

More info at http://www.vexillumband.eu/
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