In the mood for some gentle, ethereal harp music to calm your nerves? While this isn’t the album to lull you into a peaceful slumber, French Celtic metal outfit ORKHYS are back with another full-length fantasy-inspired album, Legends, combining the ethereal with elements of death, thrash, and black metal. This album is for those who are looking for equal parts folkloric and heavy metal.

The album’s title track, Legends, is an instrumental introduction to the album that gives the listener an idea of what to expect on the rest of the album (minus the heavier elements): synths, harps, and Celtic melodies and themes. Following this is Boudicca, Queen Of The Iceni, a track that transitions in from the introductory track and kicks off a relatively upbeat, high-energy tempo. It launches into power metal territory with speed and melody, with an organ adding depth and complexity to the music.

A symphonic introduction leads into gradual unfolding of The Scream Of The Banshee. The verses feature mainly organ and drums, building up to an epic arrangement in the middle with brass and choir. The incorporation of a guitar solo and a powerful outro adds depth and complexity. In Deirdre An Bhróin, the beautiful harp arpeggio introduction contrasts with an unexpected blast beat at the beginning. The chorus finds a better balance between instruments, though excessive drum presence at times detracts from other elements. The frequent blast beats created a tension from the get-go rather than having a slow-building tension and release as we’d expect. The bridge maintains a melodic yet metal feel, with the harp remaining a highlight. The song also features vocal harmonies – a beautiful touch that I wish I’d heard more frequently on this album.

Starting with a powerful, fast intro in The Chained Oak, this track blends power metal with thrash elements before transitioning into a more symphonic sound. The chorus provides a moment of respite, allowing the story to unfold, while the bridge creates suspense before returning to familiar themes. The orchestration is a nice touch, and I would have loved to hear it arranged with slightly varied changes with each instrument (particularly towards the end of the song). The folky intro of Bae An Anaon evokes a medieval atmosphere, with the drums occasionally overpowering other elements. Despite its length, the track offers enjoyable melodic lines and tension-building moments. The inclusion of a guitar solo adds flair, leading to a big chorus and epic ending. The harp, here, is a beautifully executed highlight.

Draugar showcases powerful vocals amidst changing intervals and choral accompaniments. The bridge shifts from piano to heavy/thrash metal, with a noticeable harp adding texture. While some elements may seem unnecessary, the overall impact remains strong. The song pays a strong resemblance to Amorphis’ sound and exhibits influences from symphonic metal.

Beginning with an acoustic intro reminiscent of ancient Europe, The Dullahan quickly transitions into fast-paced metal akin to Children Of Bodom. Well-executed vocals and dynamic drumming distinguish each section, while a guitar solo adds complexity. The track’s musical cohesiveness, dynamics, and overall production make it a clear highlight on the album. In The Infernal Kelpie, another acoustic intro sets a calm tone before the track intensifies with double bass pedal and pipes. Despite occasional clashes between instruments, moments of beauty emerge, particularly during arpeggio sections with subtle cello accompaniment. The track culminates in an epic finale, showcasing the full potential of the instrumentation and vocals.

Overall, this album has plenty interesting elements that weave together an unexpected combination of death metal, thrash metal, symphonic metal, and ethereal Celtic music. Many songs transport the listener to a place of tension much more quickly than one would’ve expected, and this has in large part to do with the drums. While a slower build-up would’ve made for particularly exciting dynamics across the album, Jean-Yves Châteaux did a remarkable job performing drums and showcase his finely tuned technical skills. For their future releases, I’d love to hear more frequent vocals and harmonies to emphasize moments of tension. The harp is a beautiful centerpiece throughout this album, contributing to what I feel is part of the band’s signature sound.

This album sets a strong precedent for any future releases from ORKHYS. Each track offers its own unique blend of symphonic power metal, and folk elements, creating a diverse and engaging listening experience. Legends has a lot to love, especially for fans of Amorphis and Nightwish.

Angela Ambrose