without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
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 If fans of the first or second album had trouble adjusting to the historical references and the particular vibe on Battle Magic, they were in for a surprise this time!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.