Legend - From the Fjords
Empire Records
Heavy Metal
8 songs (43:16)
Release year: 1979
Fan myspace, Empire Records
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
I used to have The Confrontation as my mobile phone ringtone. If anyone had ever called me, I would have been the coolest motherfucker in the room. This has to be one of metal, and indeed rock and roll’s coolest instrumentals; that annihilating, cattle-decapitating riff, married to jubilant circus ground melodies reminiscent of jazz-fusion nutters such as Colosseum, and flamboyant musicianship that are pure prog rock. As an album centrepiece, it doesn’t get better. But then, as albums go, not much beats From the Fjords anyway.

I have no intention of patronising the reader by relating a potted history of metal in the late 1970s; clearly, I’m not the person to be doing that. Evidently, given the fact that this record is not a well known one nowadays indicates that at the time it can’t have started many revolutions. You might say it was ahead of its time, I guess. It expands the fantastical lyrical themes that Black Sabbath and their contemporaries had initially experimented with, thus preceding a legion of lovable metal-playing Tolkien geeks. But it seems to me to be reaching primarily backwards to the heyday of prog rock, and grafting its freewheeling musical adventurism onto a heavier sound, albeit one heavily rooted in rock and roll rather than heavy metal.

What, then, does this sound like? It’s based largely on inventive and insistent riffs married to well crafted tunes, and takes every possible opportunity to segue into lengthy but gripping instrumental explorations. The drums rattle away hyperactively, kinda like Mitch Mitchell playing in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The guitar solos are immense, and the vocals (Kevin Nugent, who died in 1983, four years after releasing this) have a modest, Greg Lake –like charisma about them. It’s funny, on top of that. Iron Horse collapses in on itself, into a drum solo that gradually picks up speed like a steam train; just as you start to notice the likeness in your head, a loud “poop poop” sound effect interjects. Then there is the sleepy cowboy saloon plod of R.A.R.Z, with a sly melody that emerges again in a lead solo long after the tune has transformed into a heavier number.

This isn’t significant enough to be a classic, but it’s every bit as good as most albums that are. I don’t believe in giving perfect scores. If I am trapped in a bear pit and I can use an album to fend off a pack of hungry grizzlies, then it might get a 99/100. But in the absence of literally having saved my life, this comes close; the fact is, there is not just no bad track here. There is nothing that can’t be called a highlight. The urgency of the riff on The Wizard’s Vengeance is perfection distilled into a 4 bar phrase, and I now hear it in Mastodon’s best riffs. The vocal melody on The Destroyer is untouchably classy. The ballad, The Golden Bell, has a folky charm straight out of the Canterbury Scene.

If there ever was a hidden gem, it is this. A fortuitous collision of superior songwriting with skilful and inventive musicianship, leading to a truly unique and unsung masterpiece.

Killing Songs :
ALL, puny human
Charles quoted 97 / 100
4 readers voted
Your quote was: 99.
Change your vote

There are 37 replies to this review. Last one on Sat Mar 31, 2012 9:21 am
View and Post comments