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Fellwarden - Legend review

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Band: Fellwarden
Album: Legend
Style: Atmospheric black metal, Folk metal
Release date: June 2024

01. Exultance (Wall 1: Eldibar)
02. Despair (Wall 2: Musif)
03. Renewed Hope (Wall 3: Kania)
04. Desperation (Wall 4: Sumitos)
05. Serenity (Wall 5: Valteri)
06. Death (Wall 6: Geddon)
07. Hope Renews Again [Digital and CD Editions bonus]

Legend has it, The Watcher has returned with one of his most epically ambitious releases yet.

Fellwarden is a UK-based solo folk/atmospheric black metal project formed in 2014 by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Frank Allain (aka The Watcher), who you may be more familiar with as the frontman for Fen. As with many atmospheric black metal bands from the UK, such as Saor, A Forest Of Stars, and Winterfylleth, there's a genuine raw passion and certain epicness that separates it from music in the genre from elsewhere; it's as if the vocals and lyrics come from the heart and soul of those participating musicians, and The Watcher offers nothing different with Fellwarden in that regard. The project aims to immerse its listeners in worlds of ancient landscapes, with lyrical themes set around folklore, mythology, and sacrifice.

Now let's get straight down to business and bring you up to date with Fellwarden's third full-length offering, Legend, which marks the project's 10-year anniversary. Shaping this hour-long release alongside The Watcher is a variety of guest performers, including Alasdair Dunn (drums), Mark Harrington (bass), Adam Allain (choirs), and Sean Darling (narration). Legend is a concept based on David Gemmell's novel of the same name, where each of the 6 tracks acts as a chapter representing a wall of the fortress (which is represented on the album cover) from the novel, and is a fitting tribute to honour the late author. Here, listeners are transported into Gemmell's immersive world through tales told of honour, wisdom, defiance, and sacrifice, in a quest to find redemption.

The opening chapter of this gripping saga is the 10-minute epic "Exultance (Wall 1: Eldibar)", where listeners will find folk and atmospheric black elements in the form of haunting choirs, thundering drums, and melodically folkish riffs majestically colliding, and this approach is sustained through to the second track, "Despair (Wall 2: Musif)". At this stage, you're simply at the beginning of an epic journey, so anyone not yet captured by what's occurred so far should hold on tight; this is another case where skipping tracks is simply not an option if you want to reap the full benefits of what this album truly offers. It's an experience that requires to be heard in full.

Still, it is with the third track, "Renewed Hope (Wall 3: Kania)", that I believe things really start to get interesting. This is the second of the 10-minute songs, with the main standout moment being a narrative tale told above a beautiful soft acoustic passage that grandiosely builds until just past the halfway point; at this point, the glorious choir, passionate clean singing, and harsh vocals all stunningly merge together, which eventually breaks into some brilliant melancholic tremolo riffs and mesmerizing leads. "Desperation (Wall 4: Sumitos)" begins with a beautifully constructed acoustic passage and a wonderfully mournful choir chant that truly lives up to the track's title, before breaking into another section of heavy intertwining melancholic guitar work. "Death (Wall 6: Geddon)" then concludes this epic journey in heavenly and tranquil fashion. This is actually quite an uplifting and spiritual song, as opposed to the dark and morbid theme that you'd expect when reflecting on death, and this gives the listener a feeling that slipping into the endless dark void is not as grim as it's believed; it makes for a perfect way to reflect on where this epic journey has taken you.

Overall, Legend is a worthy concept for honouring the great work of author David Gemmell. So many metal artists have used inspiration from fantasy-based novels over the years, and atmospheric black metal in particular is a genre that can bring to life the great authors' works vividly (take Summoning with Tolkien, for instance); I'd say Fellwarden has accomplished just that here with Legend.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 18.06.2024 by Feel free to share your views.

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