There isn't much innovation in today's metal scene, and a majority of bands who do try and do something different, tend to fail at it. Then there are bands that manage to break that mold and release some music that stands out very well. Corsair is one of the latter groups, and Shadow Kingdom Records made another brilliant find with this Virginia quartet. The band's self-titled is almost not even metal at some points, and if I had to describe the band's sound simply, it would be heavy progressive rock. Think of the earlier proto-metal bands like (early) Manilla Road, Legend, Heavy Load, Beowulf, etc, and throw in some prog elements a la King Crimson and a little bit of that Thin Lizzy flair, and that's what Corsair brings to the table on their debut full-length. If you can't handle metal that isn't overly evil or relentlessly fast, then this probably isn't for you, but if you can enjoy the less heavy things in life, carry on.
The driving force for the songs throughout the course of "Corsair" are the always shifting riffs, that consist of distorted chords, wandering notes on the fretboard and some more upbeat riffage, rounding out a well-varied arsenal of rhythm. And the progressive influences never really go too far, as the music is memorable and not just a technical wank-fest for the guitarists. "Falconer" and "Gryphon Wing" are a couple examples of the heavier songs, with midpaced riffage that give the clean vocals an excellent backdrop for some memorable tracks. The amount of melody on this record cannot be understated, as the guitarists have a real talent for weaving stellar melody after melody with otherwise standard riffage for some great results. "Chaemera" and "Of Kings and Cowards" feature some of the best melodic passages on any album slapped with a "heavy metal" tag in quite some time, and the way they mesh with the vocals and other instruments is phenomenal.
Corsair's terrific guitarwork isn't the only reason why the self-titled album kicks ass, but every other instrument contributes as well. The bass can be heard throughout, delivering thumping bass lines and more prog-like compositions to perfectly compliment everything else. The vocals are just as much of a highlight on "Corsair" as the riffs are. There are two vocalists, with one being a woman (listen to "The Desert"), but for the most part it's one guy doing a hell of a job. The vocalist's clean singing is incredibly soothing to the ears and the effect is multiplied when being backed by the awesome melodies, riffs and solos that span the entire debut. Overall, this is a record that completely caught me off guard. Is it metal, is it rock? I'd say it's definitely a bit of both, but most importantly it's a quality album worth the time of any music fan who enjoys any of the bands that were name-dropped earlier in the review. Shadow Kingdom has once again proved to be one of the best labels around today by picking out Corsair, and the two entities are sure to be praised a lot more as the years roll on if they keep producing material this damn good.
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"Path of the Chosen Arrow"
"Of Kings and Cowards"
4.4/5 or 88%.