on 26 June 2002
It is rare that an album ever matches the sublime sophistication of a classical epic - particularly when it is an opus such as Orff's heathenesque 'Carmina Burana'. Indeed, the sweeping strings on the cantiones profanae's "Charmer, gip die varwe mir" could be linked with 'Battle Magic's' aggressive version on "Return to the praesidium of ys"!
The Byronic hero is an inspirational extraordinaire!!! - Such legendary etchings as "THE CROWS WILL PICK YOUR BONES CLEAN!", his historical wisdom (that I mean - in the broadest sense of the word!) shown in "When Rides The Scion Of The Storms" and his poetic "Ash for our spear-hafts, Yew for our bow-staves, Oak for our deck planks..." in "A Tale From The Deep Woods" clearly shows this underground genius a match for Shakespeare, Eliot, Blake and the rest of them!!!
Contrary to what the other reviewer said, sonically this IS a million miles away from COF. Thankfully, Bal-Sagoth are in a league of their own, without compare and truly out of this world, provided theres a Games Workshop at whichever world it is we're talking about here.
I don't know too much about Bal-Sagoth, though I was given this CD a few years back and have become hopelessly attached to it. It's a rare example of a full-length album which is both ridiculously extravagant AND listenable, unlike, say, Dragonforce's "Sonic Rampage". Regardless of the praise for verbose lyricist/author Byron, the keystone of this band is the beyond-value talent of keyboardist (and then drummer, too) Johnny Maudlin. The orchestration here is a primary force, rather than an appendage like in so many other bands. It could even be said that for Bal-Sagoth, the so-called "proper" music is written around the keyboards. It shows too, as Bal-Sagoth were given a month in-studio to record the album, which for a band on Cacophonous Records is a big deal; one keyboard track alone took a full SIX DAYS to record! The fantasy element in this music evokes every emotion it strives to. Opener "Battle Magic" is one of the most joyful songs ever written, while other portions of the album are melancholy or triumphant. It is hard to resist the strong urge to get on a horse and purge the land, so to speak, when the trumpets and thrash-gallop of "The Dark Liege of Chaos is Unleashed at the Ensorcelled Shrine of A'Zura Kai (The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire Part II)" kicks in. That almost sounds like a joke, doesn't it?! The call-to-arms of "Blood Slakes the Sand at the Circus Maximus" has the same effect, all harps and wailing guitars, ecstasy after a hard day's war. Maudlin would later give up the drumstool so he could concentrate on keys alone. Another great performance of his is on My Dying Bride's "The Dreadful Hours", the peak of their post-violin work.
Maudlin aside, the rest of Sagoth are excellent too. The guitars are fantastically menacing, happily wandering, and as and when needed, metal to the core. Byron's vocals range from deliciously pompous speaking (he can barely contain himself as he brags "The dimensional gates of the
multiverse are mine to voyage effortlessly beyond") to raspingly evil during the faster sections. While there are plenty of blastbeats (sneakily programmed I suspect) the music never dips into one genre or another, remaining completely unique from start to finish, and it really is a shame this album has to finish. The concept, the characters, the WORLD this music takes you to is worthy of a decent series of novels at the very least (which I read was in the pipeline, so thumbs up there).
The highlight are tracks 5,10,2,4,7,8,1,3,6 and all in between. Bal-Sagoth is a band that deserves much more attention, infinitely much more praise and as much of your money as you feel sensible giving them, so buy Battle Magic now.
on 18 September 2000
Musically, not a million miles away from the likes of Cradle of Filth, but where CoF immerse you in a world of vampires and such, Bal-Sagoth steer clear of the gothic in favour of the epic. This is music to psyche you up for a particularly gruelling role-playing game. Final Countdown style synths are the secret ingredient, serving as battle trumpets to the beserker-warrior guitars. Stirring music and fantasy lyrics combine to generate some powerful imagery, and whats even more special for a metal album, its fun to listen to.
on 3 March 2015
If Lord Of the Rings was to have a metal soundtrack, this band would have written it.
The battle songs make you want to grab your sword (you DO own a sword don't you?) and go out to do battle.
Sweeping majestic keyboards, heroic vocals, metal screaming vocals, blazing guitar riffs, bombast, pomp, melody, dragons, battles, witches, gladiators!
What more can you possibly want?