Tales Of Valor
Review by Vladimir on December 11, 2023.
One of the greatest albums within the Serbian metal scene that we got in recent years was without a doubt Tales Of Glory by the epic heavy metal band Oathbringer from Kragujevac. Not only was the album met with overwhelmingly positive reviews back in 2022, but it was also a prized gem that shined the new dawn of the local metal scene. Although the band had gone through various lineup changes in the meantime, they did manage to expand as a five piece, with Milos “Priestkiller” Stošić solely handling the vocals whereas the bass duties have been taken by his Deadly Mosh bandmate Aleksandar “RapidBastard” Milutinović. Aside from their announcement of the new lineup, they also announced their upcoming second full-length album Tales Of Valor, which is due to be released on January 12th in 2024, once again via RTR Records. The second album was teased back when they released their new single 'Hall Of the Slain', which promised that this was going to be an expansion of Tales Of Glory, while also a new entry in the band’s epic saga. Tales Of Glory is still fresh with its magnificent output and it seems that it would be a difficult task or perhaps practically impossible to be topped by any further release. So, what does the upcoming storm bring with the successor that is Tales Of Valor? Please, join me on this journey and let’s find out.
On first glance, it seems that Oathbringer has taken an even further step with Tales Of Valor, with the approach that not only expands Tales Of Glory, but it actually feels like it reintroduces the band’s general mythos. If I could symbolically describe what this feels like, it would be like Diablo 1 and Diablo 2, where one is an excellent starting point, whereas the other is the sequel that practically erases the original. The musicality remains all around similar to its predecessor, from the epic singing vocals, to the heavy guitar riffs, neoclassical guitar solos, banging drums, but with the addition of more orchestral elements in form of epic choirs, pianos and keyboards that resemble the sound of violins. They even took on an incredible task of introducing some heavier moments in their songs, which is evident on the opening track 'Morgoth' with some epic Bathory-like riffing and even groovy shouting vocals, elevating the band’s sound to a higher level. The fourth track 'Holy War' is yet another example of Oathbringer providing a catchy heavy metal tune, next to 'Alone In The Night' from the previous album, which once again brings in the very elegant and enjoyable musicianship that is in the style of 80’s heavy metal, dominated by its simplistic nature expressed through the riffs and lyrics. There are also some noticeable DIO influences on the sixth track 'Witch’s Hut', which riff-wise is also in the style of 80’s heavy metal, but with elements of Ronnie James Dio vocal style and lyrics. Another strong song that stands out is 'Strike To Kill' which seems to be a Witcher themed song and also another heavy banger that leaves no monster or striga breathing or crawling, only bleeding and rotting. Finally, the closing track 'Dragonmount' is indeed a grand pay off that brings this epic journey to the grand finale and also a strong conclusion with the clean guitar outro that fades this masterpiece to black. The songwriting remains all around faithful to what Oathbringer had previously established with Tales Of Glory, with the great part being that each song manages to stand out on its own for a variety of reasons from the musicianship all the way to some interesting inclusions. Songs are fairly simple to follow along, while the powerful riffs are amped up with the strong vocal performance by Priestkiller and the badass backing vocals which give the songs an even greater “strength of steel”. The great thing about Tales Of Valor is that it keeps the sacred tradition of keeping the tone of the album flowing smoothly with a strong emphasis on stylistic consistency, without any song feeling like it is a surplus, or in this case a filler, that could have been easily left out and disregarded without anyone ever mentioning it. The band has once again hired the incredibly talented artist Velio Josto to craft the cover art for this album, and he had done a great job like he did with Tales Of Glory, although this time with much more added details and perhaps an even richer tone that surpass what was visually represented on the previous album. The sound production is also much heavier and more grandiose in comparison to Tales Of Glory, which also successfully helped other inclusions like the aforementioned choirs and keyboards stand out next to the instrumental work and the leading vocals.
If Tales Of Glory was all about “sharpened swords, axes and war hammers”, then Tales Of Valor is all about “enchanted greatswords, double-bitted axes and halberds”. This album certainly seemed like a very risky attempt to place Oathbringer on an even bigger pedestal, and one cannot deny that it was an ambitious effort that was not put to waste by any means. Just like Tales Of Glory, this is “all killer no filler”, but in comparison to its predecessor, this is the sequel that beats the original in every way. Yet another great and strong performance by Oathbringer which promised a lot and not only successfully delivered as an album, but also surpassed any expectations that I initially had. If a blacksmith took Tales Of Glory to a grindstone and decided to enhance its performance, the result that you get is Tales Of Valor. The almighty Cimmerian god Crom is pleased once again, and he calls upon all his followers to join him and feast upon the greatness that is Tales Of Valor.
Rating: 9.4 out of 10938