Days of Yore - _The Mad God's Wage_
(Thunder, 1997)
by: Alvin Wee (8 out of 10)
Few words could describe my amazement when the package arrived in the mail. Even now, the beautiful packaging leaves me breathless. Breaking new ground in package design the way digipaks did in the early 90s, Canadian power metal quintet Days of Yore have spared little in creating their debut box of sorcery. Looking more like a high-budget computer game than a music CD, their debut opus materialises in the form of a large, glossy box fronted by beautiful artwork, and -- guess what -- a synopsis behind! Removing the lid reveals a large, thick booklet (think Burzum's _Filosofem_, only nicer), containing not only painstakingly crafted artwork, but also a full 6000 words of fantasy swashbuckling adventure. As a matter of fact, the entire album is written like a fantasy novel, albeit a somewhat unimaginative one. Well, so much for the packaging, it's the music that really counts, and after such a whetting, appetites are bound to run high -- not to mention expectations. It's hard to suppress the urge to smile with pleasure when presented with a symphonic intro like that... and when Malmsteen-esque guitars start to assault your ears, you feel a classic in the making. That is, until you realise that the "theatrical vocal approach" isn't entirely a can of worms you'd like to open. While musically promising, entire vocal lines are ruined by tone-deaf shrieking and completely unnecessary melodramatics. Things aren't as bad as they seem though, with the Giguere brothers proving a formidable pair of axe-wielders, offering ample recompense in the form of blazing leads and throat-ripping riffing worthy of any Malmsteen album. Taking cues from the usual horde of German power-metallers, much of the material is engaging and sufficiently varied to complement the ever-changing storyline. As a concept album, it wouldn't be fair to avoid anything less than full marks; from a purely musical viewpoint, things look rather promising too, with outstanding tracks like "Clash At Dawn" proving that DoY are worth something beyond that pretty cardboard box. On the whole, I'd consider this a pretty excellent album, and by no means should any die-hard power metal fan miss it. For less enthusiastic voyagers, giving this a miss would be a better idea, at least till the band finds a better throat. Then again, with packaging like that...


(article published 8/7/1998)

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