Battlelore – Sword’s Song – 3.5/5
This is a band that has been sitting on my shelf for almost a year now, and for some reason I never succeeded in giving it the time it needed to fully listen to them. I suppose the main reason for that lies in the misconception on my part of what to expect from them. With a name when broken down becomes “Battle” and “Lore,” it conjures epic images of battling Vikings, warcrys and plenty of fantasy-type lyrics. Whilst the fantasy-filled lyrics are present, the aggression and for the most part, epic tone isn’t. This is a band that is far more at home with the likes of Tacere than with Turisas.
There is one main problem I encountered in this album, much pertaining to the manner in which the songs unfold. When dealing with fantasy lyrics there are generally two tenses used, past and present. Whilst the former sings about old legends and myths, a falling of long past heroes, the latter takes you amidst the battle, as though you are one of the heroes. This band, whilst going from lyrics alone would adhere to the latter option, creates a certain dissonance in the use of clean female vocals (which have slowly risen to near the top of the pile in terms of favourite female vocal work) and growls, the mid-pitched growls interchanging so frequently with the airy, rather more delicate and distant sounding female vocals has you feeling distant from the events taking place, watching from afar, only to have you thrust right back again by the growls. If you can overcome this issue I had, then there is likely to be much to enjoy here.
Most of the instrumentation can be summed up rather quickly. The drums are rather repetitive, the bass inaudible and the guitars are rather bland, though effectively carry the rhythm. I can’t quite understand the purpose of two guitarists on this album, but nonetheless they assist in creating an effective backing layer. Instead, the interest arises through the use of vocals and keyboards, and it must be said they are rather effective.
Often used for atmosphere, the keyboards fulfil an important duty, being the primary instrument used to smooth the transition between the two vocal styles, where they have moderate success. In addition to this, they perform their own riffs on occasion, performing between vocal sections. It is here that we often find the keyboard player displaying their prowess, and is something I’d have loved to have heard more of on this album.
Despite the negativity that has been mentioned in this review, the vocals themselves are incredibly well performed. The variety keeps things interesting, if dissonant, and they both provide a unique tone. The growls are easily understood and sound barbaric in nature, and the clean vocals are done in such a mesmerising manner that when at their best, can easily hold your attention, and at their worst become merely above average.
This is an album I had difficulty getting into, the interchanges felt poorly done for the most part, and the bland guitar work in particular leaves much to be desired. Despite this, tracks such as ‘Buccaneers Inn’ and ‘The War of Wrath’ emerge, seemingly out of nowhere and have me mesmerised for their duration. Inconsistent here, but perhaps there is still hope for a knock-out release in the future.
Highlights: Buccaneers Inn, Dragonslayer, The War of Wrath
P.S. Before giving this a full listen, because of the manner presented I was under the assumption this was a folk metal band, and hence the place in this special. It should be noted there is a negligible folk influence, beyond perhaps the use of a flute intro in ‘Horns of Gondor.’ This is symphonic metal.