Defender - They Came Over the High Pass
Necropolis Records
True Metal
8 songs ()
Release year: 1999
Necropolis Records
Reviewed by Ben
Archive review

If there ever was an overlooked album of the last decade then Defender’s They Came Over the High Pass is it. Despite the vintage cover, layout, design and complete and total analog production, this came out in 1999 and I’m still wondering why hardly anyone knows about them. Their appearance, especially the artwork and song titles, makes it seem that they would be generic, typical, “Mighty Warriors of Light” True Metal, but the music is a more heavy Iron Maiden style of playing than the Helloween school of speedy metal which makes for a refreshing listen.

The album starts off with the title track, but its just the “obligatory intro song” that most albums have these days, and as an “obligatory intro song” it kinda sucks. It doesn’t really go anywhere and the last half of it is feedback that bleeds into the next song. The first real song, The Siege of Armengar is simply brilliant! I mean it just comes out of nowhere and with its sweet melodic riffs it makes you take notice instantly. Imagine the epic passages of Iron Maiden mixed with the galloping crunch riffs of Iced Earth and you’ll have a good idea of what this song is like musically. The vocals also struck a chord with me, they are a midrange tone with much power, and they have a real gruff element to them as well. The lyrics come alive and at the songs deadly climax you can envision the walls of Armengar crumbling as a horde storms over and slaughters the inhabitants within. The killer song on the album, and a real monster of a heavy metal song in general. High Mountain Valley is a nice enough song, but it is over eight minutes long and doesn’t really kick in until about halfway through. An excellent instrumental, Summit Day is next and it takes you away over the mountains of life and makes you feel like you’re soaring above the clouds. Truly inspiring. Despite the string of mighty songs, Dragon (and with a name like that you’d think I’d love this one) is a huge miss. It starts off strong enough with a great folkloric lead guitar line, but here is where the vocals are completely off mark. While great for epic battle songs, the singer here just kills the song with his very bad folkish rhymes. A pity for the music is excellent. Just as soon as the disappointment of Dragonhits you though, City in the Clouds comes roaring back and relieves your worries. A straight ahead, speed metal song with a breakneck pace, City in the Clouds is a great “comeback” song. They Came Over the High Pass ends on a good note with another very cool instrumental, Maze of the Minotaur and an epic midtempo Nomads of the Stars.

Overall this is a rather well done album. At only eight songs though, it is rather short in terms of quantity but the quality of songs such as The Siege of Armengar make up for that small shortcoming. Really, I’d almost suggest buying They Came Over the High Pass just for that one song. If you like True Metal but want something a little different than Hammerfall try out Defender. I didn’t lose much sleep when I didn’t have this album but now that I do I keep coming back to it without even thinking, mainly to hear The Siege of Armengar.

Killing Songs :
The Siege of Armengar, Summit Day and City in the Clouds
Ben quoted 76 / 100
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