Tsargrad have taken Toronto by a storm last year. Playing as many relevant shows as possible kept the buzz steady throughout the second half of 2013. Tsargrad emerged in the summer of 2012 after Glenn Marchildon (guitar) and Conor Filipuzzi (vocals, guitar) decided to part ways with their band at the time and work on something that would be closer to their hearts. Their vision of a straight-forward but powerful metal rang true, and Chris Galbraith (drums) and Zak Field (bass) quickly joined.
Gaining praise from the metal community all over Ontario, it was soon time for a release. Axes High, which may or may not be a play on Iron Maiden’s “Aces High”, Tsargrad’s first EP, was released in October of 2013. It is a short, but energetic record that certainly makes a lot of promises about a full-length album.
The EP opens up with “Thor’s Angels” and a fantastic guitar solo, that sets the bar high for the rest of the record. Really, it melts your face off, and it is a risky step to open an album this way. It pays off in this instance. “Thor’s Angels” is a great introduction also due to the lines “Axes high / Fight or die / Side by side”, setting the theme and the mood of the EP.
“Old Friend” carries on the flow of the record, showing more dimensions to the sound of the band. Starting out fast, the song changes into a slow epic ballad half way through. With a solo towards the end of the song, by this time it is certain that Marchildon means business.
“Gallant Few” is a short acoustic number, reminiscent of Blind Guardian’s “The Bard’s Song” in spirit and technique. It flows right into “Victory”, the gem of the EP. It grabs your attention from the first chords and makes you want to wield your sword and charge into the battle, grabbing a pint of mead with your blood brothers afterwards. It is a song that can be thrown into any metalhead’s party list along with Turisas and Alestorm and won’t feel out of place.
Next one up is a metal cover of a theme-song from the motion picture Last of the Mohicans, called “Promontory”. The track is a good way to showcase the band’s abilities, and although it doesn’t have any vocals, the “hey!” chants are all more than enough in this guitar-driven number. The instrumental does the original justice, keeping with the Celtic motif and adapting it to the metal makings of the present day.
Closing off the EP is another high-energy number, called “The Riches of Our Kingdom”. The lines “Together we won, we have yielded to none” perfectly summarize this release. The joy of quest completion is spilling from the song and into the hearts of the listeners, creating a bond that would hopefully last for years to come.
Overall, Axes High is a strong introduction to Tsargrad. The production quality is superb and the tightness of the band is admirable, considering the guys have only been together for a year and a half. The songs are catchy and worthy of party sing-alongs. Tsargrad aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel here, but they still manage to keep things fresh, while paying their dues to legends like Manowar. There is definitely room to grow here, as Filipuzzi needs to unleash his full vocal potential. For now it seems like he’s hiding behind all the reverb and stylizing. Lyrically, all the songs have very strong hooks and choruses, I have sung “victory, oh, victory” for days on end, but the verses are underdeveloped for the most part. It is in a way the curse of the genre, as it lies heavily on musical bridges and blistering solos.
All that said, Axes High provides a an excellent ground for a follow up and will surely gain Tsargrad a lot of new fans.Published Link