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Bloodaxe > Gales of November > Reviews > BassLord
Bloodaxe - Gales of November

Axe Blade Shines - 97%

BassLord, June 6th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2022, CD, One Eye Rising (Digipak)

After an incredible nine year gap Canada’s frostiest Viking band have returned with their fourth full length album “Gales of November”. Strangely enough, nine years also separated Bloodaxe’s last album from its predecessor as well. In the case of “For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down” the glacial gap was somewhat of a letdown as while that album was overflowing with creative ideas and aggression it was also greatly hindered by sloppy playing and underwhelming production. This flaw has been seriously rectified by this new release as “Gales of November” is unquestionably ambitious in both scope and professionalism. Plainly put the music is not only the tightest and most interesting ever by the band, it has also been captured in crystalline form with great production that genuinely highlights the performances.

“I, Destroyer” crashes abruptly into the fold with the ferocity of a Viking longship circa 793. Tense lead guitars quickly raise the listeners heartbeat before the uniquely shifting verse rhythms kick in that really lets you know this is a Bloodaxe album. “Waking the Fates” contains interesting slow riffs juxtaposed against hyper fast drumming which results in a swirling guitar feel. “Born to the Horns” is a catchy slower number with a bouncing feel throughout culminating in a very alarming guitar solo. “Sails of My Father” uses a slightly more emotional approach in the vocals and soloing to give the impression of an elder telling a grim tale around a campfire. This song is another great example of how Bloodaxe manage to rarely play a riff in a standard fashion: everything is slightly elongated, cut short, twisted in any way as to make it not resemble the vast majority of black metal bands. “Beneath the Sun” kicks off with an incredibly Frosty riff worthy of "To Mega Therion”, the dark and pounding vibe carrying into its lengthy ending solo.

“Thirst of the Tyrant” might contain my personal favorite riff of the disc with it’s recurring riffs reminiscent of Black Flag’s more sludgey moments off My War. I didn’t expect to draw a comparison to one of my favorite punk bands during a Viking metal review but it does speak to the far reaching creativity on display alongside the brutish aggression. “Thus Wept the Sea Widow” once again finds the lead guitar creating a dreamlike atmosphere right from the beginning with a controlled melodic line during the raging first riff. There are some more unique touches employed throughout the album as well such as the tremolo effects utilized on “The Bridge Below” or even stranger the jaw harp solo from “After the Rats Have Fled”. It sorta brings me back to “Sleeping Village” from the first Sabbath record but this might be the first time I’ve heard jaw harp used during a metal song and somehow manage to sound really awesome! “Three Winters” has a bit more guitar heroics on display but the abrupt ending suggests it might have needed another take. The record’s epic closer manages to conjure images of another great Norse metal act with due reverence paid to Bathory’s Hammerheart era as well as some standout bass lines.

Special mention should be made of session drummer supreme Krzysztof Klingbein whose performance on this record is an absolute show stealer. Boasting precision technique and deep cracking tones on his kit, Krzysztof definitely plays with an air of ability far and above previous skinsmen. That he manages to blend so smoothly into this group's unusual sense of timing and groove would suggest far more rehearsal time than was probably available. The recording quality is also superb; again a landmark achievement in this band’s recording history. The ultra clear sound does make the record much palpable in it’s complete form given its impressive length. Seriously this album is about twice as long as their usual LP! The songs themselves are the longest on average in the band’s history but where brevity always served the vicious nature of their sound so well in the past, these extended tracks give way to unforgettably epic soundscapes. There are still some quick blasting songs done well in the usual style but even those seem dripping with newfound confidence.

It’s pretty cool when a band you have listened to for about half your existence suddenly drops their best stuff ever. You suddenly realize how rare a phenomenon it truly is and how much certain artists can actually mean to you throughout your life. I’ve always listened to these guys because they really don’t sound like much else out there especially in the black and Viking metal circles. On “Gales” Bloodaxe main man Nordavinden seems to have whipped up his masterpiece creating a metal album that is simultaneously relentlessly aggressive yet also oddly dreamlike and relaxing. There aren't too many acts out there that can blast and scream for an entire hour and never get boring or monotonous, even when monotony is actually part of their sound! Just a great release all around right down to the cool natural look of the packaging. It isn’t perfect by any means but more so than ever the flaws present only serve the strength of its character in an even more accurate way. I dare anyone to name a more brutal Viking metal album that sounds half this competent.