Metal4Africa.com » » Strident – ‘Oath’
In a very general sense, I find it incredibly hard not to like Strident. Although there are some diehards who would criticize them for not being ‘metal enough’, I believe with conviction that our local metal-scape is a much better place for having Strident present among us. Although far from being the heaviest band, there are few who can ‘out-metal’ Strident as human beings and as contributing members to our community. In the bands fairly brief history, they have reached some impressive milestones by the simple power of: A) being awesome people to everybody they come into contact with; B) believing in themselves and the metal in which they trust, and; C) realizing that the gift of music can (and should) be used for spreading the magic of entertainment over and above being a channel used merely for self-gratification. Given this background, you can imagine how eager I have been to get my hands on Strident’s debut album ‘Oath’.
And so it was to be. Last week at Paulaner Brauhaus at the V&A Waterfront (Cape Town), over the ample rims of our litre-size beer mugs, I negotiated the terms of accord with George (Guitar) and Piet (bass) whilst Daniel (keyboard) was downstairs harassing the one-man-band-dude to play us another Toto song…. or something like that. The agreement was that if they supplied me with the disk – which at that time was (or could at this time still be) in the ‘manufacturing’ stage – I’d publish this piece before their tour to Johannesburg where Strident are to appear on the line-up for Ensiferum (Finnish Folk-Metallers) in South Africa. In that regard, I am honoured to be one of the first people to have had their ears graced by the sounds of ‘Oath’.
The album art already told me what I could expect to find within. Epic pose with epic guitar, standing before an epically proportioned guitar amp-shaped mountain spewing forth a horde of… creatures, whilst receiving blessings from the God of Epicness himself! The character portrayed in the image seems to replicate the confidence that I’ve seen cloaked about the members of Strident each time they stand before an audience. I love the illustration style as well as the theme. It suits the band and the genre to perfection, whilst at the same time setting the stage for an adventure of the imagination.
Strident describe themselves as “Epic South African Power Metal”. There is no mistake as to the ‘epicness’ (a word which I will now lay to rest – lol) which remains an intrinsic property of this album throughout – ensured by a strong presence of keyboard orchestrations and almost choir-like vocals. Nor can the fact that it is power metal be denied, as it is characterized by clean and often ‘operatic’ vocals and an abundance of lead solo’s. The lyrical content does not hold to anything within a South African Context, however. Themes of glorious battle; honour and brotherhood; spitting in the eye of all that is not metal and so forth riddles the first few songs. Then it evolves into a Nordic-like theme before leaping off the wall completely into the realm of good humour, pirates, and space invaders. All in all, some pretty feel-good songs which I think are brilliantly written with big (as in fucking huge) choruses and solo’s. Having experienced Strident live on a great number of occasions and having them never fail to take my breath away, I felt that this did not translate quite as powerfully into the recorded material. I suspect that the bands songs are more bounteous than their treasure chests. The songs are generally well performed, but in a band where the vocal element is so vitally important, I perceive that some flaws were not thoroughly worked over and ironed out. I also think that for the ‘size’ of the vocal elements in many of the songs, there could/should have been more processing to get that bigger sound. Of course, it’s easy for some of us to sit on the high throne and comment on these things when in actual fact, Strident have set out to accomplish an incredibly difficult feat on extremely limited funding. If I had the money, I’d have thrown in every last cent, nickel, or dime to see this album reach the production levels of Rhapsody Of Fire or Manowar. I’m sure that with the right financial backing Strident would excel into a world power. The quality of song and imagination is inspiring. On that merit alone, ‘Oath’ will find itself exposed to many a person unfortunate enough to share my company. If you enjoy a bit of tongue-in-cheek such as can be seen in bands like Alestorm, Zimmershole, 3 Inches Of Blood and so on, then I think you will absolutely love this album. It’s been hard to pick a favorite track from this album, but owing to the lyrics that have successfully overthrown every other mental process in my brain over the last few hours, I’d have to say: “Power Metal from spaaaaace - melting your faaaaace - rocking the stars – out of their plaaaaace…” – some pretty awesome guitar pieces as well that make me think of what Dragonforce might sound like at human speed.
If I were invited to suggest a reworking on the genre-description, however, I might rather prefer to call it ‘Heroic Power Metal’. Probably because of having read one too many David Gemmel novels – lol