Review: Eternal Champion – The Armor of Ire

The warrior stands at the edge of the field, his sweaty hand clenching his sword. Sweat is dripping down his brow and onto his meager armor. He can hear the drums getting louder, ever louder. They are a monotonous sound, a sound of death.

There in the distance he can see them, dozens of foes, clad in armor. Some wielding swords, others spears and axes. All have much better armor than he, but he doesn’t care. He thinks to himself “How long has it been? How many foes have I killed? How long will this go on for? Is this my fate, the fate of all who walk the lands? An endless battle?” No matter, the army sees him; a horn sounds and a piercing battle cry fills the air. They run towards him. The warrior clenches his sword harder and that ever present feeling begins to surge though his blood. That ever endless thirst for the blood of those who would stand against him. If this is his eternal fate, let him meet it head on then. He raises his own battle cry and charges forward, to either victory or oblivion.

It’s easy to say that the genre of “epic” metal has made a great resurgence in recent years. But if you paid attention it never really left. Bands like Crush and Wotan more than held their weapons high in the early to mid 90’s. But it is definitely reaching into more metal loving ears now thanks to the wonders of the internet. Those who have been paying attention though will have noticed among the many great bands singing about warriors and battle the presence of Austin, TX outfit Eternal Champion. To say this full-length debut has been highly anticipated is an enormous understatement. I am still impressed that they managed to wow so many people and build such a ravenous fanbase with basically just three songs, seven if you count the material of front-man Jason Tarpey’s previous band Graven Rite. So the question arises; has The Armor of Ire been forged sufficiently strong and true to stand among the greats of epic metal? For this maniac, the answer is a resounding YES.

The album clocks in at over 34 minutes and consisting of 2 instrumentals and 6 songs, one of which is a re-recording from their demo. Some would gripe that makes this album too short, but I disagree. This type of metal doesn’t need 12 songs mostly consisting of filler, and The Armor of Ire is the perfect length. EC have learned their riff craft from the likes of Omen and “The Deluge” era Manilla Road well, as there isn’t a single wasted note here. Album opener “I Am the Hammer” is a mid-paced fist pumper about a grand battle that doesn’t actually reveal the record’s true strength. The songs on this record are very simple but have a deceptively early progressive metal (think early Fates Warning) feel to them, like “Cold Sword” and its primary galloping riff that with every stop, goes a sight bit off center, or “Sing a Last Song of Valdese” with its understated but noticeable bass work and amazing spoken word section. And let’s not even get into how amazing all of the solos on this bad boy are.

Another thing that stands out about EC in general is their approach to the revered fantasy lore that so many bands of this ilk crib their inspiration from. They take a much more somber  approach to their lyrical content. It’s no coincidence that the band is named after a Michael Moorcock creation; his literary works weren’t so much about “good and evil” as they were about “order vs chaos.” A constant endless struggle against the madness of the world and all of the horrible things that we construct ourselves, be it conquering kingdoms or summoning unspeakable horrors.

One listen to “The Invoker” aka the closest thing the band has to a ballad, and it reads like the very end of everything because we were foolish enough to bring a Great Old One into our world, knowing that mere humans would be either eradicated on sight or driven mad by their mere presence.

The moment has come, the horror unreal. They wait at the gate, but I see them. And in my mind I will always recall the sound of the Gods as they rose.

The track alternates between its clean guitar-driven verses and Tarpey’s mournful crooning to the riff city of the bridges to exemplify this, as though hesitant to go through with the ritual. And then when that final solo comes in, it’s now or never; stop the vile ones or the world burns forever. While other bands go on about the triumph of slaying their enemies and obtaining all the gold and wenches, EC simply acknowledge the folly and hideousness of the world and scream against the inevitable end knowing that they are doomed to repeat that very journey, in different places and forms, for the rest of time. Even their more upbeat songs carry this mentality. The title track has a faster pace and has riffs (and again, those solos) out of the wazoo; but it is about an impending final, futile take of revenge against some seemingly unstoppable warlord.

It helps that the band behind him more than pulls their weight. Of their three (yes, three) guitarists Carlos Llanas in particular proves to be a master riff wizard, as he excels greatly on building upon the main riff of every track and adding melody upon melody to glorious effect. The rest of the band is on fire as well, including the understated but forceful enough audio backbone provided by the drumming of Arthur Rizik, he of the equally mighty Sumerlands. His excellent rhythm on the redone “Last King of Pictdom” and the increasing tribal-like abuse of the toms on “The Invoker” is astounding and just two examples of why he is one of the most prolific folks in metal today.

Tarpey is a very important element to this approach. His vocals are very low key and haunting compared to his contemporaries, who see fit to be overly dramatic and belt out as many high notes as possible. Oh the man can belt with the best of them, like on the aforementioned “Sing A Last Song…”. But he prefers to use his voice to tell a story. And he makes that story the most urgent and timely thing ever, enunciating every word to make sure you hear it while it’s still dripping with emotion. The aforementioned spoken word section of “Sing a Last Song…” is all him, and it is filled with the required dread and feelings of reckoning to accompany what is basically a eulogy to a fallen warrior.

I can’t state enough how great this record is. Even if you are not a fan of the whole “SLAY POSERS WITH STEEL” rhetoric, you should give this a listen and let it fill you with an inner strength to take on any foes who stand in your path. Or at least make your neck delightfully sore. Simon says unsheathe your sword, ready your shield, and get this album.

FIVE OUT OF FIVE FLAMING TOILETS OV HELL

NEW_TOILETSCALE_5_of_5

 

 

PS: Having seen them earlier this month, I can safely tell you; If they play live in your town, you owe it to yourself to go see them. These songs pack even more power in a live setting. See them if only to hear Tarpey call his music “some real nerd shit.”

Written by:

Published on: November 1, 2016

Filled Under: Nerd Shit, Reviews

Views: 1082

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  • W.

    This was quite a fun review, dude. You really sold the album well.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    People are loving this album. I’m surprised it was even reviewed!

  • Óðinn
    • Is this yours?

      • Óðinn

        No. I found it on TShirtSlayer. To me it’s very 1980s though, especially with that style leather underneath. I kinda like it.

    • Simon PhoenixKing Rising

      I was immensely bummed they didn’t have any patches at the show. Especially since their new logo looks much cooler. I settled for a shirt.

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    “early Fates Warning” you say?

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    5 OUT OF 5 THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!!!

    HAIL SIMON! TRUE METAL WARRIOR!

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Like this album a lot. I have not been fond of the current power/speed/heavy metal trend to fill an hour or more on every record, even with stellar material it’s pushing so The Armor of Ire is a welcome change (and it’s album length, guys, lol).
    On another note, at first I thought this was going to be the glorious return of Bandall Thorsson, but the glorious return of Simone Phoenix is even better tbh.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Simon Phoenix>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY
    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Couldn’t have picked a better song either, Frank. Nobody fucks with Manilla Road.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Nobody.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Cool tidbit, in case you didn’t know, but Fenriz takes the opening lyric and uses it on this track. But switches it a little.

          We sail the seas, of negativity
          to banish kindness from this place

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDwY-e6JQrY

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Damn, never noticed that before. It’s been a long while since I jammed Total Death.
            Nevertheless, Fenriz has proven on more than occasion to have an excellent taste in music. After all, he was the one who pushed these guys to the forefront.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKUE-wSxviI

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            And I’m a poophead. I checked and it’s actually Garm who wrote those lyrics. So, I edited for that.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Haha no prob! Fenriz still rules. That’ll always be an irrefutable fact of life.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    This album kicks so much ass, as does this review. You eloquently put into words what I myself had trouble with, Simon.

    The riffs, drums and vicals come together in a display of true metal TRIUMPH AND GLORY! And it is all encapsulated in the best album art of the year. 10/10 Hail and Kills!

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      And your note and Karhu’s about length is spot on. This will fit perfectly on a record and it is grand enough for multiple back to back spins. I can’t wait for the vinyl.

    • tigeraid

      More HAILS! More KILLS! It slays.

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        HAIL!!!!!

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      I only listened to the first song, but it absolutely slays. Vox rule.

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        HAIL FRANK! TRUE METAL WARRIOR!

  • WOW, THIS IS SUCH A RIGHTEOUS REVIEW, SIMON! <3

  • tigeraid

    I dig this album a ton. Fun review too.

  • Man, this record sounds amazing. Jefe el Rosa is behind me these two months to peep this out and I couldn’t had the opportunity until now (that the connection is letting me).

    I’m with you at the vocal arguments, It have a very storytelling style, reminds me of Manilla Road singing. I’m sold with this review, the seal is closed.

  • Jack Rabbit

    Hell yeah! The riffs are glorious on this

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    Yep this would all fit right into the scene 30 years ago.

  • I want to fit in, so I’ll say that I like it too.

  • xengineofdeathx

    This is some good shit! Pharaoh also wrote a pretty sweet song called I am the Hammer.

    • Simon PhoenixKing Rising

      I’ve only recently gotten hip to how fucking awesome Pharaoh are. This song right here is riff city.

      https://youtu.be/tFQlVy5E6kk

      • Howard Dean

        Pharaoh! I jammed The Longest Night for almost an entire winter a couple of years ago. Really good stuff.

        Great review, Mr. Phoenix!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjIKd2ZdhCw

        • This album has one huge problem to me. By the Night Sky is such an incredible song and should have been at the beginning or the end! Every time I get to it, I immediately start the song over again! I have no idea what the rest of the album actually sounds like, I just get stuck on that song forever.

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            I just got to By the Night Sky, my goodness that song is so good!

          • xengineofdeathx

            Fuck I know, one of the most epic trad. Songs in recent memory.

      • xengineofdeathx

        Fuck yeah sir. This song also has furious riffing https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UuojxWhmFm4

        • NDG

          Pharaoh are amazing! Is the Chris Black on drums the same Chris Black of High Spirits, Dawnbringer, Aktor, etc.?

          • NDG

            Answering my own question: it is the same Chris Black. This dude can do no wrong!

          • xengineofdeathx

            He’s a bad motherfucker.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Damn! Pharoah is ripping it up on I Am The Hammer!

      • xengineofdeathx

        I know man, those fucking leads are furious too right?!

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Very much so! I got about half way through the album, will definitely finish later.

  • Waynecro

    This is a mighty fine review, Mr. Phoenix.

  • ME GORAK™✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    DIGGING LOTS!!!!!!!!!! CD OUT OF STOCK : ( !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    https://66.media.tumblr.com/442adb6400984a79583ea81ffb242351/tumblr_neg0donf1S1s2wio8o1_500.gif

  • atchdav

    This album has been my go to driving music for the past couple of weeks.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      HAIL ATCHDAV!

  • JWEG

    I didn’t actually think much of their side of the split with Gatekeeper, to the point where I’m surprised a 5/5 could be awarded only a year later.

    This is not a dissenting opinion, though. Just surprise.

    • Simon PhoenixKing Rising

      I don’t know man. I loved Gatekeeper’s song on that split, but Retaliator is a beast of a song.

      • JWEG

        I’ll revisit it too. It’s possible I wasn’t in the right headspace for it to properly gel.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
  • Playing the first song, I keep hearing I AM THE JAMOOOOON

  • Well, I gave the first two songs a shot, but whatever secret ingredient Sumerlands had that lured me in doesn’t seem to be present here.

    • (don’t tell nobody but I feel the exact same)

      • (even though they’re from Austin???)

        • (Graven Rite was the better band imo)

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Hey hey, now now.

          • (Definitely liking the riffs on that more, still kinda eh on the singing tho)

      • HEY JOE HAVE YOU MET MY STEEL?

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      I find this superior to Sumerlands, though both are superb. Do you think you can pin point that “secret ingredient” to anything specific?

      • That’s the thing, I can’t put my finger on it. I think it’s a whole package deal with Sumerlands for me. The riffs are just busy enough, the production lets every note ring clearly but still give it an almost dreamy, faraway atmosphere. The vocals are not typically the kind of thing I dig but something about them just really works for me, probably a trick of the production. They don’t sound soaring or epic, but somewhat melancholic, which works well with the overall vibe. With Sumerlands, I feel like a warrior in a distant land staring into the sunset on the cover.

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Hmm, very cool observation, thanks for sharing. I see where you’re coming from. Sumerlabds seemed to hit just right with a lot of people.

          I think Eternal Champion has a more 70s/80s USPM edge to them, rather than the polished 80s sound Sumerlands uses.

          • I would definitely describe EC’s sound as, not cruder, but more like less refined than Sumerlands, yeah.

  • HAIL TRUE METAL!

  • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

    Great review. I’d have probably skipped over this otherwise, assuming it was just another power metal band (and I really haven’t done power metal much in the last several years).

    It’s funny how these guys and Sumerlands each bear mentioning when talking about either band, yet they really do sound so distinct. Sumerlands has a certain style that straddles the classic rock/metal line, where I think Eternal Champion is much more overtly metal (not saying one is better, just some will favor one approach over the other).

    Regardless, both totally own.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      It’s okay you can just come out and say Eternal Champion are better.

      • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

        Hahaha, I don’t really know how I feel. It really just depends on my mood. I probably will listen to Eternal Champion more, but then again, it doesn’t really matter, because when I want a trad-metal-fix I’ll probably listen to the new Khemmis.

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Hmmm, different kind of trad metal, but also a great album. Cheers!

          • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

            Oh yeah, definitely not an apples to oranges comparison. Just hooked on that one lately.

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            Haha, i knew what you meant, Hunted is bad ass!

          • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

            Have you seen the full artwork? I thought the wizard guy on the front of the album was the same as the previous, just re-imagined similarly to Eddie on all the Iron Maiden covers, but it’s actually a different dude.

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            I have both records, looks like the same dude to me. And the warrior lady and stone Monolith from Absolution are on the back cover too.