Saturday, April 19, 2014

Battleroar - Blood of Legends


Power Metal can be background music or it can be foreground music. It's very often not both. Battleroar's Blood of Legends is both. While some of the album becomes just something to throw on while you're folding laundry or washing dishes, some moments do leave a more lasting impression in mostly favorable ways. The album can be a very European sounding release with all the additional bombastic instrumentation and choral arrangements but Battleroar have done well to remember that they are a Heavy Metal band and even with all the violins and added backing vocals, Battleroar are heavy enough and hard enough to appeal to those that don't buy into the whole European Power Metal sound that's been immortalized by bands like Rhapsody and Blind Guardian's recent releases. Battleroar don't follow that trend at all, which is a blessing. The band seems to draw more on pagan metal melodies instead of the more classically influenced symphonic power metal bands as well which makes Blood of Legends a less generic listen. The importance of Alex Papadiamantis' violin within the songs is not lost even on the least critical listener. What comes across inevitably is a very dramatic and epic power metal record that grows better with multiple listens and unfolds into a heavy-hitting Heavy Metal record.

From the introduction to first track "Stormgiven" we are placed into a narrative with a tense acoustic passage and sounds of wind and rain. Violin carries the track into the first heavy hitter, "The Swords are Drawn." While this main opener contains some of the epic components that latter tracks fully embrace, it's a relatively simple opening track and, after the grandiose intro, is a bit of a let down. The album really starts then with the excellent "Poisoned Well" which is immaculately crafted with the big slow verse riffs, violin melodies, and the big expansive vocal performance of Gerrit Mutz which blossoms at every moment. "Blood of Legends" picks up nicely, it's a faster track and it once again incorporates the violin nicely. It's tracks like these that makes you pick your head up and take notice. But it's tracks like "Immortal Chariot" that make you look down at the floor with your head between your toes. One of the most tedious tracks on the album, the fifth song seems to go on and on with vocalist Gerrit giving a wholesom performance but just repeating the miserable chorus over and over again to no end. It's the worst part of the album. Also not that enjoyable are some vocal moments in "Chivalry" that include some raspy vocals that don't seem to pair well and some shorter angsty vocals that also seem poorly executed.

After this mishap the album regains it's flavor though and songs like "The Curse of Medea" which makes more use of the violin and the excellent "Valkyries Above Us," which I'm leaning on as my second favorite track pick up the slack to prevent Blood of Legends from dropping off into no-man's-land. "Valkyries Above Us" is a true highlight though and much like "Poisoned Well" is massive and bombastic with huge drumming from Nick Papadopoulos and also some well placed bass licks from Stavros Aivaliotis. Big vocals during the chorus are chilling. Battleroar sounds their best here, with every member taking moments to shine in this track. A risky spoken word part at the end of the track does no harm and adds to the variety of the song. Guitarists Kostas Tzortzis and Antreas Sotiropoulos make a great tandem across the album. Big sounds, big melodies and some really great songs make Blood of Legends a serious must-have for fans of epic metal.

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