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Through ever twisting roads in search of fresh approach to Tolkien BM - 55%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 4th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Based in Kaliningrad, an enclave of Russia sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, Balga looks like a new atmospheric BM project with one demo "Legends of the Damned" and this debut album "Through the Ever Twisted Roads", released in November 2020 and April 2021, to its name. For "... Ever Twisted Roads", this project enlisted Alexey Lapshov from fellow Kaliningrad BM band Moongates Guardian on guest vocals but apart from this information, I don't know much else about Balga, not even if it's a solo act or a group.

Balga mixes epic orchestral symphonic music and wintry atmospheric BM featuring blizzard-noise tremolo guitars to achieve a style of film-soundtrack music with a mediaeval flavour. Track titles like "Hirgon's Son" suggest J R R Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series of novels as the main influence on Balga. All tracks are around the 5-minute mark and are even in mood and pace (fairly slow on most tracks) with no sudden bursts of demented solo lead guitar, runaway keyboard flourishes or agonised screaming. Repeated riff and keyboard melody loops with occasional lead guitar soloing dominate the songs though constant repetition can make them sound a bit dull and tired. The raspy vocals are somewhat set back in the mix so as to be an almost ghostly presence adding another layer of abrasive texture to the music.

The album has an airy ambience, redolent of old tales of mediaeval pagan worship and journeys of knights on noble (or maybe not so noble) quests - it's worth bearing in mind that the area where Kaliningrad is located was one of the last strongholds of pagan religion in Europe, and Kaliningrad itself is the successor city to Konigsberg that traces its history back to a fortress founded in the mid-1200s by the Teutonic Knights in their campaign to forcibly Christianise the pagan inhabitants - but apart from this spacious atmosphere, the music is rather ordinary with most songs being rather slow and sounding very much the same with no really outstanding riffs, rhythms, moods or other features that would make them stand out from one another. The best parts of the album tend to be ambient passages that appear at the beginnings of some songs like "We Glimpse the Dawn Through Smoky Skies" and "Hirgon's Son (Part 1)" or in the middle of the last track, or brief moments featuring acoustic guitar melodies.

Even though Tolkien's works may have been done to death by a thousand other bands in Balga's chosen genre, there's always the possibility that something new and original can be done in it. Balga hasn't yet found that possibility.