|Review: Bal-Sagoth - Battle Magic|
Label: Cacophonous Records
Year released: 1998
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: April 17, 2006
Reviewed by: Ulysses
Rated 4.05/5 (80.95%) (21 Votes)
I've been a Bal-Sagoth fan for a long time and I can say that their discography is excellent without a single mediocre release. I have to say, however, that of all of Bal-Sagoth's albums "Battle Magic" remains my least favorite. That does not mean that this album is bad, quite the opposite, actually. When Bal-Sagoth released "Starfire Burning…" in 1996 (which still remains my favorite album by Lord Byron and company with the exception of their latest album) and they would have to release something that's truly of monumental radiance to top the captivating and brilliant musicianship that made Starfire such a classic. They came close with Battle Magic, which is a good release, but they just could not top it.
The album begins with the trademark Bal-Sagoth introductory keyboard instrumental that happens to be the self-titled cut on the album. It's a track that's purely reminiscent of Mortiis' ambient work, but I have to say that it's relatively catchy and sets a magical atmosphere to charm you before the crushing riffs, thunderous drumming, symphonic assaults and rasping vocals emerge to tell epic tales of Gods, long-lost kingdoms, warriors imbued with celestial powers and material of that substance that Bal-Sagoth are known to execute flawlessly.
The thing that I didn't like about this album, however, is that some of the tracks are ruined a bit by the production. For some odd reason, I felt that the Battle Magic did not possess the splendid symphonic compositions that Starfire had possessed or the grim and dismal production that made the previous album so dark. I also feel that the production on this album is also slightly thin; slightly deficient of depth and the mixing seem to be vaguely lopsided at times. However, the production's flawed nature thankfully doesn't distract the music at all. Everything else is nicely performed; the riffs are sharp, destructive and accent the music excellently while the drums and keyboards are the main driven force behind the grand hymns of magnified opulence. The obvious highlight of this album are Byron's vocals which have always remained powerful, from his arcane incantations to his aggressive growling that's iniquitous and pure of aggression. All the tracks on this album are a blast to listen to (with the exception of the production), although there are some that are superior to others. The best cut on this album is "When Rides the Scion of Storms" and the longest cut on this album "Blood Slakes The Sad at the Circus Maximus", which is so cool. The riffs in both tracks are very catchy that headbanging is ultimately inevitable. As dorky as Bal-Sagoth's concepts appear to be, they still remain to have balls of steel.
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Interview with Byron (Vocals) on April 6, 2003 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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