The Barque Of Dante is not only a famous painting by Eugène Delacroix, but also the name of a rather good power metal band hailing from the city of Mianying in Sichuan Province of the People’s Republic of China. Founded back in 2005, the band’s first record, Final Victory, was delayed by a year because the finished tracks and some of the band’s equipment was destroyed during the Panzhihua earthquake in August of 2008, and the band needed to start all over again. Their first record turned out to be a solid, if quite short album inspired by European power metal. The four Chinese decided to get even more European by adding Swiss singer Thomas Winkler of Emerald and Gloryhammer fame to their line-up back in 2011. In addition to this, Greek singer Vicky Psarakis (who has also done additional vocals for the critically acclaimed sophomore record of progressive metal band Until Rain) is also on board for Barque Of Dante’s sophomore output. The release of this record was initially due in October, but will finally be physically released just before Christmas of this year.
Overall, the band’s sophomore record features a better developed atmosphere and more musical diversity, with many keyboard orchestrations, acoustic guitars, and piano ballads mixed male and female vocals. Extensive melodic keyboard and guitar solos can be found in almost all tracks. Winkler performs both the moderate but effective high pitched vocals, as in the powerful opener “Lasting Forever”, as well as the laid back and natural vocals heard in the more melancholic mid-tempo track “Walking Alone”. A few narrative passages in the classic genre anthem “Follow The King” and the band’s epic masterpiece in two parts entitled “Albert The Miner”, add majestic touches to these challenging and intellectual songs. The two instrumentals present us a more cinematic and orchestral side of the band, as well as incorporating some traditional Asian folk music influences, and are a laid back contrast to the rest of the powerful hymns. Lastly, the short ballad “The Way To Freedom” featuring a guest female vocalist is great way to close this very entertaining record.
Standout tracks are of course the two parts of the epic masterpiece “Albert The Miner”, which is really worth your attention and time, and probably the ballad “I Will Never Forget”, that features a dreamy and grounded duet of Thomas Winkler and Vicky Psarakis supported by catchy piano melodies, artificially flavored string sections, and acoustic guitars. I also like the feel-good atmosphere on tracks like “Way Of Your Life” that somehow feel appropriate for Christmas time. European power fans will really get what they want on this record, while haters of that genre will find this record cheesy, unoriginal, and claim that the album lacks some identity. However, if we consider all these European metal bands inspired by Middle Eastern or Chinese folk music and history, it’s completely normal to find four young Chinese musicians who simply adore power metal, culture, and arts from the exotic old continent’s culture.
The simple fact is that the band is, of course, far from being truly innovating or surprising. The songs are all well crafted but ultimately rather predictable. A few tracks also drag on a bit too long in my opinion, and lose some energy there. A song like the ballad “I Will Never Forget” would have sounded much better to my ears with a running time of only four minutes, and a true emotional highlight, instead of an overlong instrumental break plus another chorus repetition to extend the track to a length of six minutes and a half, for example.
European power metal fans will decidedly enjoy this. If you don’t like the European version of the genre, chances are good that you won’t care for a Chinese take on it either. From time to time, I still adore listening to this kind of music though. Merry Christmas!