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After the repetitious and monotonous A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria, the blazing Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima-Thule, the somehow quieter, Disneyish Battle Magic and the heavier, more symphonic The Power Cosmic the expectations on what brave, new move our heroes would take next. Would they follow their road, committed and devoted to their divine task, exploring how metal something is just because of flaring keyboards, sounds produced synthetically out of silicon-consisting equipment? Would years and fate be kind to them? Would a two-years gap give our heroes enough rest and motivation to keep their synthesized odes of antediluvian steel and scrolls?
Bal-Sagoth themselves felt that they couldn’t let down their fans and knew that bands often take use of their old sound while exploring and decided to do so. Now our heroes, although being British, tried their very best, and did so very hard. Byron put more work into writing his lyrics than ever before, thus strengthening the first trademark of our heroes. He explorer the mighty and unreal world of Atlantis, the untouched, unrestricted landscape of dreams, poets and superstitious Greek philosophers.
Our heroes did however not let that be the end of it. Encouraged that experimentation is a good thing, both by idols, record companies and… their own catalogue – one death metal album, two extreme speed metal and one of the symphonic kind, our heroes rode courageous away from the heavy music, from the extreme music and the death metal into the realms of melody, the realms of more traditional music. But perhaps, they thought, our old fans might be scared away? What shall we do? The obvious reason for our heroes, who after bringing up this idea celebrated their intelligence at the closest pub without arms ban, was that they should make music for everyone. Yippee! We write a good melody, because we like melodies and we decided to focus on them more, then every once in a while have breakdowns from our earlier albums! Yes, that’d make everyone happy won’t it? Unfortunately, both for our heroes who struggled in vain and the formerly so infatuated followers it didn’t come out that way. It was like the spice producer had tried to hard to make his salsa chunky, ending up with being unable to get the chunks out from the can. The music progresses logically, with the melody then suddenly the sound is disturbed by way faster drumming, way more down-tuned guitars, way more death metal until the breakdown fades away.
Our heroes did however not that be the end of it. In the search of more things to do, they decided to upgrade Jonny’s keyboards. Yes, we’ll make them lighter, not moving the music anywhere anymore yet always present, as the foremost layer of our music because he’s our trademark no. 2. No serious heroes with any respect for themselves would make that be the end of it all. Our heroes didn’t either, instead they decided to do like everyone else, put some middle-eastern influence into their music. It never fails, does it? Some riffing in that vein, some keyboards with a grain of Arabic desert to them, doesn’t have to be much, just so that you in one or two songs can notice the influence – then no one can say we haven’t progressed. Our heroes worked extra hard to let these influences surface in The Dreamer in the Catacombs of Ur.
It would however been five ashamed heroes if that’d mark the end to their changes. Of course their drummer should switch between double-bass and that other style of his, that without any power at all! Oh, how comes we didn’t think of this before? What if we’d put the guitars further down in the mix, after all they weren’t that good to start with. That way Chris’ll only have to write tabs for half of the time. And let’s throw in some symphonic elements too, that always sell.
Thus our heroes were finally happy with their new album which they called Atlantis Ascendant, a name that surprised themselves with its elegance, its aura of legendary legends and myths. Our heroes, inveterate fantasy lovers had thus closed the circle. Back in the day when they listened to epic power metal and death metal, later combining the epic parts with death metal in A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria. Today they’ve circled 180 degrees, doing epic power metal with death metal vocals. However, once again the expectations were too high, and the wishes not fulfilled. This is a completely useless album, it just repeats, with little to none variation, the stuff our “heroes” have done on their four previous albums.
In many ways it’s just the same with a different song structure, with new words. There are fewer words too, Byron seems to have let go of his lusts to make every song title twenty words and plus. Interesting is that no matter how much Bal-Sagoth experiment they end up sounding the same – the only change is how they incorporate their different sounds in the new sound – which to 90% is the same sound. The influences from traditional music, from middle-eastern music are just varnish, nothing substantial. Bal-Sagoth has got a well-developed way to symbolize their lyrics with the music. The drummer has found a great way to shape battles out of literally nothing, providing intensity and development with his blasts. This is all good stuff, but surprise, they’ve done it before. They’ve done it better, perhaps not as refined but rawer, more distinct, in a more direct way. Atlantis Ascendant is at best a low-mark but I think, even though it makes me hate myself, that it’s just the starting point for a downhill spiral.