I knew Fantasy Metal existed but never really listened to it, mostly just Power Metal with its epic storylines and wild guitars and other elements. This was my first dip into the genre and needless to say, I was not disappointed! Californian Metallers Gygax delivered the goods with ‘High Fantasy.’ It’s a perfect mix of old-school rock and Metal, and Dungeons & Dragons-type references.
Straight off the bat, Light Bender takes me back to when I first listened to Paul Di Anno-era Iron Maiden. That classic Metal sound is uplifting, and instantly I know this is going to be a good one. Full of sweet guitar harmonies, memorable riffs, and featuring a blistering solo, this song is an explosive and exciting beginning to the album. Hide Mind doesn’t waste any time and gets stuck straight into energetic riffs. The breakdown partway through the song is an unsuspecting segue into what sounds like a guitar solo face-off before exploding back into the awesome and catchy chorus.
Featuring strong D&D themes, Mage Lust really tells a story of yearning for mage-like powers. Sonically, it’s a very busy song in between verses with fascinatingly complex riffs and solos. The many elements in this song make it captivating; with harmonies featured in both guitar and vocal parts, you can hear the old-school musical inspiration. By the end of the song I’m fully taken in and can feel a powerful energy. Mirror Image has a slightly different feel to the songs that have come before. The previous songs were uplifting and felt positive. This song sounds a little on the sadder side. In the intro, the bass guitar is very pronounced in the mix and carries a lot of weight. The underlying galloping guitar rhythm in the verses is very 80s, and a lot of emotional soloing goes on in the second half of the song. The harmonising guitars at the end round the song off cleanly.
The halfway point in the album is marked by Acquisition, Magnus Canis. The intro to this one steadily crescendos to normal volume, with a way-out drum rhythm under a groovy guitar riff; the song is slower-paced than the other songs. Purely instrumental – I was waiting to hear vocals come in but they didn’t – this is a nice, almost ‘intermission’-like short tune (less than two minutes). Before you know it, the song begins to fade out. Picking up the pace again, Spell Shaker explodes into action with the packed out rocking riffs. The verses and chorus are all no-nonsense, and I really enjoyed the hefty guitar solo in the middle – it kind of gave me an old-school Black Sabbath vibe.
Something So Familiar comes in swinging – literally with a swinging beat. The verses are glorious and dynamic. About halfway through, as is a common theme throughout this album, another epic guitar solo swoops in. It really showed that these guys have real finesse when it comes to songwriting. I was thoroughly impressed with this song. Second-to-last song, The Eyes Have It opens with an interesting riff that sets the sonic scene and mostly carries through the rest of the song. The guitars seem to jump around a lot but that is what makes it catchy and it keeps you waiting to see what happens next.
Finally, the album rounds off nicely with High Fantasy. Instantly there is an air of suspense while you wait for everything to come in and before you know it, guitars and drums burst into life. The rhythm and riff style initially sounds very similar to Light Bender and I guess that brings everything together. Both the verse guitar and vocal parts are very tame, but once the two-thirds mark hits that’s it – the guitars are off and running on their own adventure. I can hear the Deep Purple influences here.
Overall I was very impressed with ‘High Fantasy’ and I think Gygax should be proud of this one.
You can stream or buy the album from Gygax’s bandcamp HERE!
Or order a physical copy at Creator-Destructor records HERE!