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Bal-Sagoth, Jr. - 80%

TheStormIRide, October 9th, 2018

Formed in 2017 by former Númenor and current Ignotus Enthropya keyboardist (among other bands) Bálint Kemény, Runeshard is a symphonic black metal project with a flair for the theatrical and the epic. I’ve come across comparisons that have included everything from Bal-Sagoth to Rhapsody of Fire to Wintersun, and it’s really not a stretch to have all of these projects come to mind while listening to the project’s debut EP. Dreaming Spire was initially released through the band’s Bandcamp page in March of 2018, but was picked up for a September CD release through Wolfspell Records.

Though it only brings four tracks (one being a short intro) and only clocks in at seventeen minutes, Runeshard have delivered triumphant, symphonically charged black metal that should leave fans of the genre quite satisfied. The base of the music is delivered via a blend of melodic black metal with hints fast moving power metal and some melodic death metal for good measure. At times, the fast paced drumming and constantly flowing lead guitars bring something akin to Starkill or Wintersun, but then flourishes of bright keyboards soar above the din, sounding almost like faux trumpet blasts at times. Other times, the guitars move into a driving, galloping delivery, or into brief, paced tremolo runs, but the jubilant keyboards remain center stage. As if the histrionic keys weren’t enough to ring in comparisons of Bal-Sagoth, the vocals often switch from a growled rasp to a more melodramatic narrated style. The vocal delivery really reminds one of something between Ophthalamia and Bal-Sagoth: it sounds remarkably nostalgic without completely aping what came before.

Bombastic blackened metal with a slight power metal and melodic death metal bent is the order of the day. The keyboards and vocals are completely over the top, but they really work for the fantastical, dungeons and dragons theme the project seems to be going for. Of course comparisons can be made to Kemény’s previous band Númenor, though the balance of power and black metal are switched, but it should be clear that Runeshard wholeheartedly misses Bal-Sagoth as much as the rest of us. So if Bal-Sagoth is going to stay in the shadows, then I’ll just jump on board the Runeshard wagon because it’s the closest thing we’re likely to find. All of that said, Runeshard’s debut is really cool if a little over-the-top, but sometimes hyperbolic fantasy metal is exactly what want.