Because Fellowship’s self-titled EP struck such a chord for many, The Saberlight Chronicles’ arrival feels a long time coming. There was something strikingly earnest and unapologetically spirited and fun about “The Hours of Wintertime,” “Hearts Upon the Hill,” and particularly “Glint” that made it easy to root for these Englanders. Symphonic power metal is hardly a young person’s game, and Fellowship represented a rare passing of the baton. That there could be so much talent, promise, and riffs in an indie symphonic power metal band was as shocking as it was exciting.
What appealed to me most about Fellowship was its marriage of pomp and catchy songwriting—a melding of Rhapsody of Fire and early-mid 2000s Sonata Arctica. That comparison feels even more appropriate here. Not unlike Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli’s work on those early Rhapsody records such as Symphony of Enchanted Lands or Dawn of Victory, the riffs are adventurous and the pomp ever-present. Now imagine Tony Kakko singing over a more melodic version of that, bridging Reckoning Night and, say, Unia, and you have a sound not too far removed from The Saberlight Chronicles.
Though the band shines a light on its neoclassical leanings with the lead single, “Until the Fire Dies,” Fellowship pulls almost equally from more traditionally melodic influences such as the aforementioned Sonata Arctica and post-Tolkki Stratovarius. “Atlas,” for example, is much catchier than anything we would have heard from Rhapsody. Yet it also boasts some Turilli-esque shredding. And it manages it all so seamlessly. It’s that ability to distill the best parts of symphonic and melodic power metal that distinguishes Fellowship from lesser bands.
Despite sometimes sounding like Majestica sans the more lighthearted German influence (Helloween and Freedom Call, mostly), The Saberlight Chronicles feels a bit like escapist fun. Though I doubt we’ll see the band’s version of A Christmas Carol, Fellowship sounds equally vibrant on songs such as “Glory Days,” “Scars and Shrapnel Wounds,” and “Oak and Ash.” Like Majestica, Fellowship embraces excess without sacrificing the song.
As much as The Saberlight Chronicles delivers on the band’s promise, I can’t help but feel that Fellowship can and will do even better in the not too distant future. I, and I am sure many others, will be watching, confident that whatever reasonably hyped expectations we can muster will not only be met but exceeded in short order.