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Its hard to have a conversation about epic Metal and not mention British mainstays Bal-Sagoth. This band is quite possibly the most epic thing to come from the UK, ever. From their humble beginnings to their current super cult status they continue to spread their own mythos to the masses by way of; swirling keyboards, massive guitars, pounding drums and shitty vocals. Almost a flawless band.
The production is crisp throughout the album. The guitars are brilliantly intertwined with the classically atmospheric keyboards. There are no solos but there are plenty of sense stirring leads. Its about half palm muted and half open chorded as far is its delivery goes. It sounds as if its tuned to standard, but because of the distortion used this isn't a problem. The music is mostly speedy up tempo riffing mixing modern Black Metal with a healthy dose of Thrash. There are slower more ponderous moments but over all this album doesn't let up.
The bass follows sadly follows the guitars too much for its own good. There is one part where the bass has a short lead in the beginning of the album and thats more or less the last you actually hear from it. The drums are tight and energetic. They are in a near constant double bass frenzy throughout the entire album. Blast beats abound, yet they aren't as creative as they are militant. Not a bad presentation all things considered.
The keyboards are where this album starts to fall apart. The reason for this is because they sound like a bargain electronic store Casio window special. They evoke more images of Warcraft than of the mythical world created by the singer. They are competent and add not only accents but much of the epic atmosphere contained within. They lend a classical touch to the already original mix.
The second part of this that just drags the album down out of the 100% range is the vocals. Byron's spoken word is very cool and different. Not many bands do this let alone do it for perhaps half of an album. His narrative style is a breath of fresh air and a new take on an old idea. His "Black rasp" (if it can so be called) sounds forced, dry and stupid. The vocals he utilized on the bands debut were brutal and deathly, these are weak and cheesy and easily the Achilles heel of the album/band.
This is a very inspiring album. Its fast, happy and fun while having slightly darker undertones laced in and around ever song. The guitars and keyboards steal the show as they work incredibly well together. You get a mental picture of what the world(s) created within look like and are about more so from the music than from the lyrics. The union of these two instruments along with the various styles thrown together in such an original way is breath taking to say the least. With its few short comings this is by far the bands best work to date. Even a decade after its release its still relevant in today’s Metal world. This is a very worth while purchase for those who enjoy originality and/or want something different.
For awhile now people have been telling me that I must listen to Bal Sagoth, because I would enjoy them. However, I was hesitant. Many people bashed them for not being “black metal,” enough and having to much “flower metal” influence. Even though this raised my curiosity, not till many years later have I bought this amazing disc. Just looking at the cover art – with this bad ass dude wielding a sword coming out of some portal like structure – makes you want to get this album, or should anyway. As all Bal Sagoth albums tell a story, or arc of a story, so does The Power Cosmic. I haven’t picked apart the storyline to examine it yet, though it deals with space and people with big names like Zuranthus and Zakumakura (the dragon king). It has enough lore and creativity to be marketed with the best fantasy/sci-fi novels.
So what do you get when you mix Moonsorrow with Rhapsody (of Fire)? Bal Sagoth!!! While the sound has been done before, this mixture of it is extremely well done. This album is truly masterful and epic. Like Rhapsody it has a lot of what I like to call “enchanted” keys. The rhythm behind the music is like reading a fantasy book or watching a sci-fi movie. It has the ability to take you to another place, which to me at least is really cool. It starts out with a pretty good instrumental that sets the stage and until the ending shouts of Zurra “so shall it be DESTROYED!!!” the album takes you on a mystical ride!
One thing I’ve noticed musically about the album is that it is heavily driven by the keys. This can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. The keyboard gives it the power metal edge, making the music truly epic in the sense; however, it covers up the guitars many a time. While I love the keys, I like my guitars better, and you really have to focus on the guitars to truly grab its style. However, without the keys, the guitars would be meaningless in this style, especially that there are no real guitar solo/lead parts in the songs. So they are complementary and in some parts mimic each other, like the lead into the verse on The Voyagers Beneath…
The vocals are also well done on this album. Surprisingly the growling vocals are less and sporadic compared to the speaking parts. I also enjoy the drumming as for the most part it is fast paced, even when the other parts of the song are cleaner and slower. Some amazing drumming that should not go unmentioned for sure!
Overall if you like epic power metal and also like growling vocals, this band is for you. In so many ways it reminds me of Rhapsody, with its epic story telling, yet it can be folky like Moonsorrow. I highly recommend any one who likes either band to get this album. Do not do what I’ve done for so many years – put off listening to this band! The album is solid all the way through. Each song grabs you and pulls you deeper into the story. There are no fillers, this is truly a masterpiece!
I must admit, that when I first picked this CD up, on the word of the various glowing reviews I had seen all over the net, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. From the rather odd genre labels I had heard slapped on this band, from “extreme symphonic” to “epic heavy metal” and even black metal, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was in for. Combine that with rather curious, completely over-the-top artwork and a logo that looked to belong to a black metal band, I was quite confused. So, with this feeling of curious puzzlement still persisting, I planted this disc in my player. I went in to it inquisitive and came out dazed and overwhelmed.
The music that was locked away behind that eye-catching cover was really like nothing I had ever heard. It had that bombastic power metal feel, mixed with a vocabulary that would terrify your average high school student, and the atmosphere of an epic sci-fi opera – replete with multiple characters, sizable dialogue and a progressive storyline. And even with my rudimentary knowledge of black metal, after listening to it, I could see how it might be tagged as such. I must admit, that after listening to the whole thing, I was quite inundated with the sheer amount that was going on here, both musically, lyrically, and in the vocabulary. And so, The Power Cosmic was destined to sit, gathering dust for a time, while my feeble brain tried to comprehend its multifaceted music. But, much like the power of the Lexicon, it could not remain forgotten for long. And so I returned, beckoned by the siren call of an epic piece of metal that would not be forgotten, and while I had not the icosahedron to guide me, I still found how to appreciate the power of this sublime album.
At this point, I am speaking to those uninitiated in the mannerisms of Bal-Sagoth, so those who have previous experience with this band may disregard this paragraph. But to those of you whose virgin ears have not yet been graced by the majesty of this music, I will tell you this: to appreciate this album, you must abandon any preconceptions you may have. Judge not on appearance, nor listen to the naysayers, for they are naught but as the flaccid lickspittles that guard our trivial Tellurian sphere, and they shall be swept away by the splendor of these Hyperborean warriors! Instead, clear your minds of any preceding thought, and abandon attempts to classify the music. Simply let the symphonic splendor wash over you, as the intro “The Awakening of the Stars” guides you slowly into a sprawling world of antediluvian demigods, colossal antagonists, and cosmic consequences.
Musically, there is an abundance of energy here. Every song sounds inspired, and the band seems full of vigor. Moreover, they sound like they’re having fun, which is exactly what you’ll have, as soon as “The Voyagers Beneath the Mare Imbrium” starts. All the songs here are filled with copious amounts of energetic, headbang inducing velocity. Don’t come expecting any showy solos, there aren’t any. But you can definitely expect to be swept up in an enthusiastic, grandiose atmosphere, something Bal-Sagoth are experts at creating.
From a conceptual standpoint, most of the songs are part of a unified storyline to them that features an imprisoned demigod by the name of Zurra, breaking free of his shackles and deciding that it’s high time he took his rightful place as the biggest bad-ass on the cosmic block. Thusly, the stage is set for our grand celestial opera to unfold. I won’t spoil it for you, but this grand yarn employs enough larger-than-life characters (who all seem to possess the lexis of an English professor) and objects of vast power to make an experienced fantasy buff’s head spin. Byron Roberts does an impressive job of voicing all these characters, throughout their tangled web of interplay and extensive dialogue, all while retaining the various outlooks and aims of each character. He alternates between voicing the narrative and different characters, while alternating between clean and black metal vocals. There’s really no way you can’t love his singing, from his detached narrative, to the vengeful malevolence with which he spits such classic lines as “I shall condemn your flaccid essence to a dimension of unparalleled pain!” or “Stray not into my darksome embrace, lest I grind my jaws on your soul!” and, of course, that classic line, “I was ancient when your ancestors were naught but protoplasmic slime!”.
Really, that is what makes this album so great. It compromises absolutely nothing, not musically, linguistically or conceptually. In fact, it goes above and beyond, opting for an approach that is so bombastically far-flung, and just plain out there, that you can’t help but respect it. It’s like a spectacular, outer-space Manowar, magnified to the nth power; an enormous hyperbole that is hopelessly endearing because it’s not afraid to be such. The music is masterfully played and brimming with energy, the lyrics reek of awesomeness, and it’s all presented in a package that tells you that THIS SHIT IS OUT THERE AND ITS NOT AFRAID TO BE OUT THERE!!! This is a magnificent album, and I heartily recommend it to any open-minded metalhead out there. Even if you don’t quite get it at first, it will grow on you; and all it requires of you is that you accept it for what it is: great heavy metal.
Bal-Sagoth, like apparently all good bands first picked up by Cacophonous, jumped ship and signed with Nuclear Blast for a 3 album deal. And boy, things sure did change! If fans of the first or second album had trouble adjusting to the historical references and the particular vibe on Battle Magic, they were in for a surprise this time! I think almost every fan on the Bal-Sagoth mailinglist, except for the really die-hard ones were really dissapointed with The Power Cosmic.
The band mentioned that this wasn't going to be a 'full-album', more of an in-between album. That's why only for this album, the outro and the interlude were skipped, also in order to preserve the momentum of the album.
Not just that, it seemed like everything had changed. The cover art, which was admittedly cheesy on the last album, was suddenly done by the Nuclear Blast native artists. And it so weird all of a sudden, as if Bal-Sagoth was about adventures in space! Oops, better not have said that before listening..
The themes on the album suddenly seemed to resolve a lot around a bizarre mix of fantasy and space. Now, in hindsight, this was actually not entirely correct, as some of the songs were of more 'familiar' material yet with a new style (track 4 for example). But the theme did change. As the band did point out, the 'space-element' was indeed already present on their earlier elements (recheck the lyrics to 'Return to the Praesidium of Ys'), but, I must say, the essence changed. Instead of looking upward towards the stars, or wondering about extra-dimensional horrors (Yay for the Lovecraft influence!) present on earlier albums, perspective changed to walking amongst the stellar giants.
Or at least it appeared so, because another change was the lyrics booklet. Where were the lyrics? There was only a short story about excavations on Mars which sort of tied the songs together. Apparently something went wrong with the switch to Nuclear Blast. Due to time-constraints and the crappy english of the guys who made the booklets in Germany, Bal-Sagoth felt forced to decide against a full-blown booklet with lyrics, in order not to get mangled texts. A sad decision, because I really REALLY missed those lyrics to read along to! Bal-Sagoth later released the complete texts on the internet (via their by the way fantastic site. Best band site ever, at least for a while), but it's not the same (having trouble printing stuff in the correct format and all as well). Oh and the band-pic with the photoshopped light-sabre and flag was teh uber-cheese.
But now I'm going to completely turn around on you, the reader. I LOVE this album! This is my second favorite Bal-Sagoth album after Starfire Burning. Why? Because all the elements other than the above-mentioned, ROCK. They finally got the production completely right. The guitars are powerfull in the mix, the synths not too much over the top, vocals well audible, and the drums pound well. And the energy! Each song feels like a rollercoaster ride through a part of Byron's imagination. Each one has OOMPH, power, and it makes me wanna headbang and see them live. It has awesome heavy and powerfull riffs. Check out track 7, 'Behold, The Armies Of War Descend Screaming From The Heavens!'. That song has what my friends and I like to call 'the Godzilla riff' (Gojira is mentioned in the lyrics btw as a wink by singer Byron Roberts). Even without the lyrics ("I was ancient when your ancestors were naught but protoplasmic slime!"), I'm loving every moment of these songs, both for the brilliant atmosphere and the kick-ass music itself.
And hey, track 6 'The Scourge Of The Fourth Celestial Host' is actually inspired and based on the Silver Surfer comic. You might find it nerdy, I think it's pretty damn metal. Because that comic is actually pretty interesting, and the song pretty good.
This album has a very different feel to it, but it's undeniably Bal-Sagoth. Might not be the Bal-Sagoth you're used to, but once you get past that..
The music is still good, the composition still involved (though different in style, it still has all these converging layers all the time), and both story- and music-wise it has all these memorable moments ("Who are you wanderer? ...I am Annihilation Incarnate!"). The band said this was an 'in-between album', delving more into the space theme. This is obvious from the fact that the band plays with a LOT of gusto and energy; it seems they were really feeling like it. And the end result? A kick-ass high energy album with a lot of momentum, that looks out to the stars.
Ok, they are childlike. Ok, they have to improve their Photoshop-Lightsaber skills... But they surely know how to combine epic and headbanging tunes without being a clone of no one.
You can't enjoy this band if you don't have some sense of humor. This is probably one of the most bombastic Metal releases ever, 8 songs full of powerful keyboards, good guitars and funny narrations where the band manages to show some really excellent ideas. Frontman and lyric writer Byron uses his clean voice and growls to accompany the different atmospheres created by keyboardist Jonny Maudling, who is the most talented musician of the band. His brother seems to understand his skills and really knows how to arrange his lines to Jonny's work, no solos but really good sound, well composed melodies and great riffs. The lyrics try to create an original cosmic saga in a very complicated way... but in five minutes you'll be thinking: "what the ..., is it a mixture of Transformers, Star Wars and Greek mythology?".
The album's highlights are the five opening tracks, specially the magical and profound "Of Carnage And A Gathering Of The Wolves" where some great neckbreaker ternary and baroque guitar riffs appear, and the thundering epic/speed-of-light "Callisto Rising"... The last tracks are not so good, but they still keep the spirit of the whole album properly. So if you are searching for an original symphonic black Metal discharge this is a good album for you. May the force be with you.
The Power Cosmic is a special album. Not only is it one of Bal-Sagoth's most defining albums, it is also the album that reinvented Bal-Sagoth. After one death metal album (A Black Moon...) and two speed-metal-meets-extreme-metal albums, Bal-Sagoth decided to tackles the field on bombastic, pompous metal mainly inspired by classic metal. The Power Cosmic is far more symphonic than their previous efforts, and far heavier as well.
The album starts off with "The Awakening of the Stars", which (suprise!) is a keyboard intro. It sort of sounds like something you would hear on Star Trek, or maybe a battle during Star Wars.
I must warn you, this album is a complete album. You will not understand it if you only listen to one or two songs. The entire album must be listened to in order to grasp the feel for it. The album, as a whole, starts of slow, and gradually builds up to an earth shattering conclusion in "The Thirteen Cryptical Prophecies of Mu". There are fast parts (and slow parts) between, but the general flow of the album is always getting faster.
This album is also a concept album, save for two songs. The lyrics (sans "Of Carnage..." and "The Scourge...") tell the story of Zurra; a rogue demigod hell-bent on omnipotence who will stop at nothing to become the ultimate god.
The best track on here, surprisingly, is the one that stands out the most. "Of Carnage and a Gathering of Wolves" is a straight out speed metal fest. If you like speed metal, you like this song. The keyboards are not overpowering like the rest of the song, and the guitars are actually the main focus (except for the last 30 or so seconds). Not to mention that it has one of the coolest lyrics in metal: "I am annihilation Incarnate!". How can you argue with that? YOU CAN'T, DOUCHE BAG! Byron owns you and your little fuckin' dog.
Now if you are looking for technicality, you won't find it here. These guys know how to compose music, but you'll find no Marty Friendman or Dave Lombardo here. If you want some killer solos, you came to the wrong place (hell, the only solo on the entire album is a short bass solo in Callisto Rising). All of the musicians do their part, and the outcome is far greater than the parts. Hell, save for Byron, no one in the band is anything extraordinary (maybe Jonny for doing some killer keyboard stuff, but I don't really know anything about that, so I make no claims).
All in all, this album is great. Awesome atmosphere, great rollercoaster feel, and superb storyline. Not to mention that they hail to Stan Lee (The Scourge... is based on the Silver Surfer series), which automatically makes this album awesome.
"The alpha and the omega, as all life was created from chaos, so shall it be destroyed!" - Zurra
Finally metal has a band that dares to be origonal and experiment in music to produce a new unique metal sound, Bal Sagoth. This band combines so many types of metal into their songs, there are symphonic power metal elements, death and black metal elements, deep clean vocals, and harsh vocals with sound like a combination of Children of Bodoms and Emperor. When put together they create an unique sound, its great! The mucisianship on this album is great, taleneted mucisians here, they obviously have an understanding of musical theory and know how to structure a song. At times this band almost resembles Stormlord, but more coherant than them.
The only porlbem I have with this album is that the harsh vocals sometimes aren't that great, they can get rather annoying and almost sound like the singer is gargling water than singing harshly. But this doesn't happen to often, and when it does its brief. The only slight problem is that very few times in the album the drummer plays theses god aweful fast drums and symbols, which sound like he is hitting his symbols with a double bass peddle, but this again is rare, and usually happens during those bad harsh vocal moments, so its not that big of a deal, doesn't effect the flow of the song much at all.
One thing this album can do well is build to a climax in a song at any one point, and sometimes the songs have several. The band also produces some nice riffs, and beautiful piano solo's or duets with other instruments. Overall an excellent album, I would recomened it for purchase by any metal fan, I can't see any type of metal fan who wouldn't like it, except you noise loving grindcorer's :). BUY NOW!