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So what happened then? - 79%

Egregius, February 9th, 2005

So Starfire Burning dissapointed those who expected another death-black album. Battle Magic dissapointed those who hoped for another Starfire Burning. And well, The Power Cosmic obviously alienated a lot of fantasy-loving die-hards. So what did Bal-Sagoth conjure up for their fifth opus in order to reconcile with the fans? An album that takes a lot of elements from all of the previous albums, I kid you not.

After the intro, that has everyone going: "Man Bal-Sagoth/Jonny Maudling should do movie soundtracks!" Atlantis Ascendant's title-track comes on. It seems very much in the musical style (including song structure) of The Power Cosmic, yet the lyrics harken back to old themes. But those whispered(!) clean passages with those typical Byron Roberts spoken vocals, don't they remind you of that awesome song from Starfire Burning called "As The Vortex Illumines The Crystalline Walls of Kor-Avul-Thaa", with that foreboding tone speaking of impending doom?

The next song, Draconis Albionensis (a fan favorite), seems to mix several elements from Starfire and Battle Magic, including a bit of the outward-seeming chaos that becomes clearer on repeated listens. Nice buildup. Some historical references again. Then 'Star Maps of the Ancient Cosmographers' comes on, and it's very typical Power Cosmic material. The back cover art seems illustrative: a skull that is a mix between a metal skull with spikes and a bone skull with horns, with an axe and a chain-axe on the background. There's some new elements on here as well. Synths seem to be used in new ways.

But let's cut to the chase: this isn't entirely 'it'. This doesn't entirely satisfy. It's seems a rewarming of left-overs, with some extra spices for the flavor. The production also didn't entirely work out. Pro-tools was introduced in the Nuclear Blast studio, and the band experimented with it, first converting it into Pro-tools format, and then after dissatisfaction converting back. The drums were left thin, and the synths sound a bit extra cheesy now (yup, I said it now) in SOME parts (it actually sounds pretty good in others). The overall sound is still clear, but it misses not only part of the momentum of The Power Cosmic, it also part of the oomph.

But, to sound corny again, it's not completely bad. It's still actually good if you compare it with a lot of the tripe out there. The story-telling is still there. Perhaps not as convincing as first, but there are gems on here. It's nice to have a conclusion to the longest songtitle ever saga (name used for brevity), even though it's not as good as Part II was. But most songs stand apart actually. Besides Draconis Albionensis, The Dreamer In The Catacombs of Ur is another fan favorite. Simply awesome Lovecraftian/Sumerian excavation atmosphere. And the synth interlude, it reminds of the dark atmosphere of the first album even.

The album comes across as a Power Cosmic without the full momentum, actually taking more time for some parts, and then some older elements reintroduced. It's now a fun ride with an undeniable cheese-element, but not as fulfilling, not as grand, as the older albums.

I am, however, extremely curious to how the upcoming album will be, expected in the near future at the time of writing.