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Realmbuilder > Blue Flame Cavalry > Reviews
Realmbuilder - Blue Flame Cavalry

Advance of the Epic Duo - 89%

Metantoine, February 1st, 2014

The traditional duo comprised of two full fledged intellectual (one is a writer, screenwriter, filmmaker, the other is a music professor) is back with their new full length on I Hate and I was expecting it since a while. The fact that such scholars are doing such primal music fills me with happiness. It's what metal should be, an escape into the nether realms, into the unknown to evade the burden of real life. The genre also needs all kind of people bringing different ideals, different ideologies to the fold and that's exactly what these guys are doing. Exploring heavy metal with a very creative approach, Realmbuilder doesn't sound like anybody else and the musicianship is not for show nor to get sexy girls to suck their phallic egos, it's all there for a reason. Like a great thesis without useless footnotes, the band doesn't waste anything and gives you what you deserve, a great thirty five minutes of unaltered music played with passion and might.

The third album from the band is doing exactly what I hoped after their excellent sophomore “Fortifications of the Pale Architect” that I also reviewed. I wanted the band to go into an even more intricate and doomy direction, they were already epic but I wanted more and they totally delivered with this opus. The songs are longer and, I know it's cliche to say that but the songwriting has matured and reached its peak here.

The first track will fool the listener as it's a speedy three minutes attack, it's groovy and tight as fuck, the riffs are heavy, the solo is mighty and the flow is better than on their usual shorter songs. It's like they needed some sort of closure before moving to the lengthy songs composing the rest of the release. The second song “Advance of the War Giants” is a twelve minutes voyage towards whatever fantasy world is in Czar's mind and it's perhaps their best song they ever wrote. While it's increasingly atmospheric, there's a certain power to the production of the guitars that made it sound very airy and dense. The do it yourself approach is still the way to go here but everything is improved, the guitar tone is more organic and simply better produced and it suits their sound very well.

The third song took me by surprise and I wasn't quite sure what to think at first. It's a slow and oceanic dirge, akin to a calm soothing walk on the beach, maybe alongside a washed up hero with a rusty sword offering you the dirty secrets of his career. It's seven minutes of pure windy atmospheres, it's pretty nice and well placed between the two ten plus minutes songs, a sort of well composed buffer between two gigantic entities fighting for power. The final title track is a good mid paced song bleeding epicness, this one is a bit too long but I'm not sure if it's due to its emotional weight or its length. It's hard to fully absorb the album in one sitting and that's probably why the album short duration is a benefit. Due to the well crafted skills of JH Halberd, it doesn't feel like it's an eternity.

The instrumentation of “Blue Flame Cavalry” is pretty rich. As written in the booklet, there's “miscellaneous percussion and sound design” and also some trumpet, all played by JH Halberd who's handling all the instruments except the drums and some guitars leads. He has an exceptional vision of what traditional metal is. There's no fucking around and even if there's a lush background to the songs, it's not for the grand purpose of making avant-garde shenanigans, it's to create their own grand worlds inhabited by over the tops conceptual allegories made of spikes and stones. There's a certain military vibe to the aptly titled album, it has this fantasy medieval flair to it which is quite enjoyable. It's a nice extension of the lyrical side, not that it wasn't already achived in their previous albums  but it's clearly overstated in a good way here.

Four songs of cohesive epic heavy metal with an additional doom feel is what we get here and it's their strongest release yet. It's deep and full of imagination, it tells a story that transpires power and confidence (to be honest, I have no idea what it's about but it's epic!) Just like in his more “prestigious” job, Czar is able to offer a pleasant narrative with simple yet memorable vocal lines. I think he improved his delivery here, it's even catchier than before even though the songs are supposed to be these long, full fledged epics. It's still this unorthodox approach but it's more natural here even though the band is still an acquired taste. There's plenty of sing along moments like these cool “uuuuh uuuh” lines that are giving an almost religious vibe to the album. There's a certain nod to the best cult band ever, Rush on this album. It can be found both in the atmospheric and precise songwriting and the long tracks reminding me of their underrated classic “Caress of Steel” with their epic scenery depicted with grace and talent. Not that Czar's voice is similar to Geddy Lee's but there's this charm coming from this original yet enchanting eccentric delivery.

The band, opposing many detractors, is still not giving up on its nonconformist crusade. This album won't please their naysayers but if you already liked them, there's no ways you'll be disappointed. A mandatory album for adventurous heavy fan and a good way to end 2013, a great year for traditional metal.

Thanks to I Hate for the promo.
Metantoine's Magickal Realm

Size Matters (the spikes are just for fun) - 90%

autothrall, December 11th, 2013

We've had no shortage of fantasy-themed metal through the decades, but NYC's Realmbuilder stands out to me for scratching a particular itch, a love of pulp, 60s-early 80s and/or young adult fiction that managed to conjure up a lot of nostalgia for this reviewer. I was instantly breaking out and prying open my old copies of the Chronicles of Prydain, Tripods Trilogy and many other imaginative works I hadn't revisited in years, and there's a real sense of mythos and mysticism to the concepts at play in the lyrics, as opposed to the generic Tolkien/Dragonlance-inspired tripe you get from a band like Rhapsody of Fire. Not that those Italians aren't fun musically, but the themes of their records feel like they were created with a Random D&D Campaign generator instead of the authentic sense of wonder I hear on Blue Flame Cavalry. Fuck, even the cover artwork to this disc throws me back decades to those old novels and RPG game manuals of my youth, and I've not been able to stop listening to this. It's not quite a flawless album, but really capitalizes upon the strengths of their sophomore, Fortifications of the Pale Architect, to create a seamless, picturesque, captivating escapism through cautious restraint and strong arrangements.

This definitely falls under that heavy/doom category, musically comparable to a simpler Manilla Road, a Lord Weird Slough Feg, or a less rotund and robust DoomSword, perhaps even a few hints of antiquated Manowar (first four records) revealed in the bombastic compositional style. Riffs are quite varied between open chords that help to seat the layered vocal arrangements, to busier proto-power metal progressions that pick up to a mid-pace, but nothing is necessarily complex or inaccessible. The real joy is that, while the chord patterns and melodies certainly aren't unique (a nigh impossible task n 2013), they feel honest and refreshing and consistently serve the escalating grandeur of the saga being played out lyrically. Realmbuilder doesn't exclusively take its time with you, but they're capable of plotting out a 10+ minute epic that never once devolves into boredom, thanks to the excellent placement of vocal choirs, leaden harmonies and a few instruments uncommon to the metal genre (trumpets, Ram's horn, etc) which help to round out the experience that the listener has been transported to this other time and place. There's also a great sense of balance and diversity between the tunes...the mellow balladry of "Adrift Upon the Night Ocean", for example, provides a smooth contrast against the siege-hymn "Advance of the War Giants" or the slower Sabbath stride of the titular finale.

The production is clean and laid back, with the drums and bass feeling like they migrated over from some obscure 70s prog rock record...in fact I was mildly reminded of some of my favorite Rush efforts of olde (Fly by Night, Caress of Steel). That's not to say the rhythm section is lazy, but it's not trying to overtake the guitars, which are played with a very mild distortion and not a lot of effects even on the harmonic segues such as that in "Advance of the War Giants". Levels are pretty much perfect for the atmosphere that the duo are chasing, with the vocals at the fore. That said, Czar's folksy everyman delivery took some adjusting to; the first few times I heard him, I wondered why they wouldn't just hire someone with a better range, but by this point I'm convinced that there could be nothing more fitting...you really feel like you're hearing these tales told from the perspective of a roving bard, forced to relay news and story from village to village just to earn a bowl of soup and a flagon of something to forget the trials of the road...not some operatic falsetto court jester in tights. Granted, when you figure in the choirs and backing vocals, it's a more accomplished and exotic mixture, but there's just nothing pretentious about Czar. YOU could sing these songs. I could sing these songs, and that's the brilliance of it...that's what makes this music so easy to connect with. Blue Flame Cavalry aesthetically approaches its lofty fantastic themes from a ground level...not from the back of a blazing dragon-mount while its radiant plate mail +13 blinds the onlooker.

It's only about 34 minutes long, but I never got the feeling that there was much else needed here. The tunes are all quite different in structure and length, and damned if they're not predictable beyond the fact that they are stylistically latched onto the teat of the fantastical concept. Realmbuilder is so freakin' humble that even the logo seems like a kid's scrawl on a notebook that might also contain doodles of wyverns and griffons, crystal balls and tumbling gnomes...youthful dreams captured in the amber of mature songwriting sensibility. Blue Flame Cavalry is a record I'll gladly pass off to my newborn when he's old enough for the Chronicles of Narnia, but one which I can also enjoy as I prep next weekend's tabletop wargaming session. Timeless and boundless in its ability to inspire raw imagination, and with these same basic ingredients, they could go almost anywhere. It's not the busiest or most proficient metal you'll hear in this or any other year, but it absolutely does not need to be...and while I have the feeling the duo hasn't yet arrived at its 'masterpiece', this and the sophomore are both excellent and come highly recommended, whether you've got your nose soiled by the ink of your umpteenth copy of The Hobbit, aroused by the mid-period works of Slough Feg and the Hammers of Misfortune, or you're the more 'recreational' sort of fantasist adrift in an acid mushroomland.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com