Vandor’s sophomore effort improves on the band’s debut, 2019’s In the Land of Vandor, in nearly every way. Nele Diel’s cover art more accurately expresses the band’s fantasy-based lyrics. The production sounds warmer, better capturing the full range of rhythm guitarist Vide Bjerde’s vocals. And the band will no doubt benefit from wider distribution and marketing courtesy of Scarlet Records, a label that has released a respectable amount of notable power metal albums of all strains in recent years.
On A Moonlit Night represents a sharp improvement on everything that kept the debut from being Vandor’s moment in the sun. The songs sound more distinct. The band more seamlessly incorporates the progressive elements that were a signature of In The Land of Vandor. And, perhaps most beneficial to Vide Bjerde’s vocals and Jack L. Stroem’s lead guitar work, the production maintains a balance that was lacking on the bass-heavy debut.
The most obvious shift may be the vocal course correct that finds Vide Bjerde’s singing pushed closer to the forefront. Perhaps a result of this increased clarity, one can now hear just how close he sounds to Christian Eriksson (ex-NorthTale, ex-Twilight Force) at times. The two share a smoothness in tone that perfectly suits this brand of fantasy-based power metal and these songs benefit from Bjerde’s range.
The songs themselves run the gamut of speedier, more traditionally European power metal but no less impressive sounding tunes (“Fate of Eltoria,” “Enter Twilight”) to more reflective, almost soft prog rock with awesome, very metal leads (“Future to Behold”) and no holds barred epicness (“The Sword to End All Wars”). The latter, a leviathan of a song, is undoubtedly an album highlight, distilling in its 18 minutes the energy and punch of the speedier tracks and the playfulness of the more progressive tunes. Despite the diversity, however, one gets the sense that the band feels more at home where power meets prog.
Rare is the band that nearly knocks it out the park on its first try. Rarer is the band that fulfills its promise so quickly. Yet here we are, listening to Vandor do exactly that when we needed it most. Given the new label and the band’s relative infancy, the Swedes easily could have pivoted and pulled from more modern influences to appeal to a broader audience. Instead, Vandor remained committed to its unique brand of peppy prog meets European power metal flair. And we’re all the better for it.