Released: 2006, Candlelight USA
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
This was a long time coming-—five years, nearly. That's almost as long as their song titles.
If you’ve forgotten what these guys were all about, I’ll summarize it for you: Bal-Sagoth are the Blind Guardian of Black/Death Metal—War Metal for gamers.
One thing the present reviewer had forgotten was vocalist Byron’s penchant for spoken-word narration: Like the voice-overs on Cradle Of Filth albums or Ancient’s Cainian ChronicleM
, the Zacherly-esque narrator overstays his welcome the moment he opens his mouth during an actual song, as opposed to merely bringing the story up to speed between tracks. In fact, the second track (“Invocations Beyond…”) would have been positively brilliant if the stupid announcer would shut his fucking mouth. But alas…it’s like thrashing out to a Book-On-Tape. It often sounds like one of those promo CD’s with the gay-ass voice-overs-—as if a bunch of journalists in a Cradle Of Filth cover band got the new Blind Guardian promo, heard the lame copy-protecting voice-overs, and thought, “Wow! Now that’s a great idea!” The bright side? Well…Byron’s screaming/growling voice is very much improved—a small victory, perhaps?
Longtime fans might be confused by some elements of this new release—it’s significantly heavier, nastier, and more guitar-oriented than previous output. The spiteful epic crunch of songs like “The Obsidian Crown” (the album’s best cut) or “Shackled To The Trilithon Of Kutulu” rumble with a near Death Metal feel. There is chaos all about. Often teetering between Tristania- and Dimmu Borgir-like moments, the sheer speed and symphonic might of this is undeniable, with even its more gothic moments (“The Fallen Kingdoms…”) darker and creepier than normal. This is a harder, angrier Bal-Sagoth. And if it weren’t for those cringe-inducing voice-overs, it would be a far better one, as well.