Metal Review – Battleroar: Blood of Legends

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Metal Review – Battleroar: Blood of Legends
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Battleroar: Blood of Legends
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Cruz Del Sur Music
May 6th, 2014
Release length: 1:01:26
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Whenever the term “epic” is used to describe the sound of a band based out of Greece, it’s almost impossible to not let your Metal blood start boiling in anticipation of something great. The fantastical and war themed Heavy/Power Metal group Battleroar happens to fall into this category, and over the years have lived up to those expectations, though rarely heard of outside their native country. They originally formed back in 2000, unleashing their self-titled debut album in 2003 through Omicron Records, then Black Lotus Records in 2005 for Age of Chaos. In 2008, Battleroar struck a deal with Cruz Del Sur Music to issue To Death and Beyond…, one of their most well received outings to date. It’s been a good six years since that career-defining album dropped, and a few line-up changes did occur in that timespan. Guitarist Antreas Sotirapoulos (Everdome), bassist Stavros Aivaliotis (former Bloodstained) and vocalist Gerrit Mutz (Angel of Damnation) join the fray to present the fourth full-length effort, Blood of Legends. But have these changes left the group weak, or is this a suitable follow-up to their previous endeavour?

The way Blood of Legends kicks off, one might think they were going the route of Pirate themes. “Stormgiven” is a beautiful, though somewhat brooding piece thanks to the acoustic guitars and violin against the early sample of rain. The slow pace does pick up to a fantastical environment, but due to some additional effects utilized you can’t help but pick up on a very faint Spaghetti Western presence. The latter touch does go away at the start of “The Swords are Drawn,” a solid piece of chugging Heavy Metal with a matching dark, rain slick atmosphere given from some of the hooks of the guitars and even the melodies from the violin. However there are times where the riffs in a passage, especially the chorus, seem to mirror the music of Alestorm, and the environments that band also musters together. Thankfully this ends up more like a coincidence given that the subtle high seas piracy vibe doesn’t really show up through the rest of the release.

“Immortal Chariot” may not be the most awe-inspiring track you’ll happen on, but there’s enough Folk passion to be felt that even fans of Johnny Cash would appreciate this one. Much of the faster pieces carry a galloping rhythm to them, though the chorus finds the drums ploughing forward against somewhat technical riffs, matching the lyrical theme by coming off as if something barrelling forward that simply cannot be stopped. While a strong cut either way, it’s the nine-minute “Valkyries Above Us” that becomes the cornerstone of the album. The restrained guitars and shifting between tempos doesn’t bother trying to mask the obvious epic realms the band is treading, allowing the chorus laced with layered harmonized chanting to move forward despite the guitars keeping it grounded to earth and not become over-the-top or cheesy. There are some deeper horns that can be heard in the verses that seem like a gamble taken to make the music a little more active than what it is. While they don’t do any real damage, these low trumpet sounds simply don’t really need to exist in such a well executed song.

Gerrit Mutz’s vocal performance through most of the album does often show traces of early Candlemass in the vein of Messiah Marcolin, something that is a great asset to this album. This shines through the most at the start of “Chivalry.” The slower pace sets up a moody Doom Metal atmosphere that is very brief, but there’s still this slight intimacy through the main verses that manages to keep that spirit alive until the pace picks up near the three minute mark and some additional harsher vocals kick in. “Poisoned Well” does have it’s trudging moments as well, though it’s nowhere near the same. This one clearly acts as a memorial to fallen heroes in honor, or at least it carries itself this way. The slightly deeper riffs throughout are matched with far more passionate vocals than any other song, embracing the epic tone the band is known for before closing on a glorious note.

The only problem to be had with Blood of Legends is the varying atmospheres in some songs. While there isn’t a single dull track on this release to be found, it can be a bit rough when you get comfortable in the medieval and fantastical realm, even the sensation of piracy or just the general high seas like at the start, only to have the violin or certain hooks establish a whole other world inadvertently. This seems to happens a lot more frequently than you would expect. “The Curse of Medea” is the perfect example. The slower performance finds the violin painting an interesting picture of early gypsy days and dancing around a fire at night with what could easily be the score to a bullfight or some masked luchador back in the day. This is quickly dropped for the more aggressive Iced Earth style bass heavy performance with hints of Egyptian themes. While a bit confusing overall, the latter guitars are some of the best when it comes to the few edgier sections on that cut.

Blood of Legends may have taken six years to finally be released, but it was well worth the wait. Battleroar may have gone through a pretty drastic line-up change over the past few years, but there’s no denying that the new members involved all have what it takes to keep the established spirit alive and thriving. Blood of Legends may have some conflicting musical settings, but its mixture of beauty and power without going over-the-top or burdening it with cheese or gimmicks will remind any listener that the glory Heavy Metal and Power Metal genres held proudly has not beenforgotten. If you have yet to experience Battleroar and are a fan of the genre, or even bands like Tyr or Vintersorg, then this is an album that won’t let you down.

01. Stormgiven – 4:00
02. The Swords are Drawn – 5:36
03. Poisoned Well – 7:23
04. Blood of Legends – 5:52
05. Immortal Chariot – 7:35
06. The Curse of Medea – 5:48
07. Valkyries Above Us – 9:04
08. Chivalry – 4:47
09. Exile Eternal – 8:12
10. Relentless Waves – 3:09
Initial Pressing Score: 8.5/10

Battleroar
Battleroar

Digital review copy of this release provided by Cruz del Sur Music, via Clawhammer PR.