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Before Battle Metal... there was Battle Magic - 95%

vicioustroll, July 18th, 2007

The third offering from Bal-Sagoth, 1998’s “Battle Magic”, stands out as one of the best from their six album metal saga. The album features imagery of medieval and fantasy battle, and also hints at where Byron is going with the story lines for the next album “The Power Cosmic” (notably the lyrics on ‘Return to the presidium of Ys’).

The whole album has an intensely epic and highly synthesized sound (even for this band), and the songs follow a more regular structure than the usual skirmish of riffs and keyboards. The album might not be that simplistic, but it is certainly the most accessible Bal-Sagoth release.

The opening keyboard passages of the instrumental title track draw you right in; and it is the synths that really carry this album. The guitar work deserves merit as the hooks are spot on; the first track ‘Naked Steel – the warrior’s saga’ for example, is instantly catchy.

Vocals sit better in the mix than on the “Starfire burning upon the ice veiled throne of Ultima Thule” album, and the overall polished production gives a real cinematic effect. Byron’s narrative style married with his black metal rasping is also very effective and adds to the whole archaic feel.

This is dungeons and dragons metal for the escapists out there. For example take these lyrics from track 6 ‘The Dark Liege of Chaos…’:

‘Hearken, sons of the glorious Empire...
Here we stand upon the Field of Blood...
Though this day we may die,
Our legend shall live… forever!’

This could be interpreted as cheese, and to the average metal head this album might seem laughable on the first listen. You have to take it with a pinch of salt and hear it for what it is; an escapist romp through a fantasy world of Byron’s own creation. If you can do that, you will really enjoy this record. For fans of Turisas but perhaps not Rhapsody; don’t be deceived as this ‘cheese’ packs a big spiky punch.

Stand-out tracks: ‘A tale from the deep woods’ ‘Return to the presidium of Ys’ ‘The Dark Liege of Chaos is unleashed at the Ensorcelled Shrine of A'Zura Kai…’