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A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria

Bal-Sagoth - A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria ©1995 Cacophonous
1. Hatheg Kla
2. Dreaming Of Utlantean Spires
3. Spellcraft And Moonfire (beyond The Citadel Of Frosts)
4. A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria
5. Enthroned In The Temple Of The Serpent Kings
6. Shadows 'neath The Black Pyramid
7. Witch-storm
8. The Ravening
9. Into The Silent Chambers Of The Sapphirean Throne
10. Silent Paths

Bal-Sagoth, England's merriest band of fantasy metal, came storming into the unsuspecting dark metal world in 1995 like a barbarian eying the treasures of Rome. Not to be outdone by anyone, Bal-Sagoth uses bigger orchestration, the heaviest beats and most overblown song arrangements throughout the album. Heck, even the lyrics are more involved and lengthy. It would actually take quite some time to sit down and read through everything singer/visionist Byron has carved into the stone lyric sheet. Needless to say, it's a fantasy on par with any book you'll find in the sci-fi section of Barnes & Nobles. The music is in the same league as Emperor or Cradle of Filth, using humongous orchestration, heavy guitars throughout and an adherence to blast beats that is somewhat distracting. Byron either rasps or grunts his way through most of the album, displaying a little less vocal variety than I would like. And by the time you reach the halfway point of the CD (somewhere around "Shadows 'neath the Black Pyramid"), the ride becomes a little less thrilling as you've seen all the curves and twists Bal-Sagoth has in store. Regardless of its occasional flaws, Black Moon excels for a debut album and truly sets the stage for this excellent band.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1998

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Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule

Bal-Sagoth - Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule ©1996 Cacophonous
1. Interactive CD-ROM Track
2. Black Dragons Soar Above The Mountains Of Shadows (prologue)
3. To Dethrone The Witch-queen Of Mytos K'Unn (the Legend Of The Battle Of Bla
4. As The Vortex Illumines The Crystalline Walls Of Kor-Avul-Thaa
5. Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
6. Journey To The Isle Of Mists (Over The Moonless Depths Of Night-dark Seas)
7. The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyper
8. And Lo, When The Imperium Marches Against Gul-Kothoth, Then Dark Sorceries
9. Summoning The Guardians Of The Astral Gate
10. In The Raven-haunted Forests Of Darkenhold, Where Shadows Reign And The Hue
11. At The Altar Of The Dreaming Gods (epilogue)

If you've seen the fast food commercial where the ditzy blonde girl at the counter assures you their burgers are "Big! I mean it!", you should have an idea of what Bal-Sagoth was striving for with Starfire. Just look at the freaking song title list, for crying out loud! These aren't titles; they're thesis papers! Even the lyrics are full-scale medieval warrior fantasy tales that would probably require a fireplace, a cozy evening and a cup of cocoa to completely read through.

Musically, Bal-Sagoth is as over the top as the lyrics and image suggests. And fortunately, these chaps know how to do it right. There's a lot of progression over 1995's A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria, especially in the harrowing and epic orchestration. The course of the music rides like a roller coaster through fields of ancient warriors, battles fought under a blood red sky and horses rampaging over the devastated countryside. Simply put, the music succeeds in presenting the proper mood and image. Twice during the course of listening to this album while writing this review, I had to suppress the urge to conquer my neighbors and eat their lunch. Bal-Sagoth shouldn't just be a metal band. They deserve an epic movie starring a young studly barbarian (Arnold is too old now), a line of Bal-Sagoth action figures decked out in the imagery presented on the album, and even a video game following the storylines. Not too many bands have ever succeeded in creating so completely an image and unique world. Now put away your Cradle of Filth t-shirts and go find the real thing.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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Battle Magic

Bal-Sagoth - Battle Magic ©1998 Cacophonous
1. Battle Magic
2. Naked Steel (the Warrior's Saga)
3. A Tale From The Deep Woods
4. Return To The Praesidum Of Ys
5. Crystal Shards
6. The Dark Liege Of Chaos Is Unleashed At The Ensorcelled Shrine Of A'Zura-Ka
7. When Rides The Scion Of The Storms
8. Blood Slakes The Sand At The Circus Maximus
9. Thwarted By The Dark Blade Of The Vampyre Hunter
10. And Atlantis Falls...

Epic songs about epic people doing really epic things. That should sum up the impetus behind Bal-Sagoth, that wacky band of merry Englishmen who have set about taking the fantasy of Celtic Frost and Bathory, the mayhem of black metal, and the profound power of classical overtures and creating their own brand of distinctly British music. With the keyboards leading the medieval charge, Bal-Sagoth goes about a fifty minute journey into times of warriors and sorcerers that is so uniquely pompous in a beautiful way, so over-the-top and well, fun. Byron's voice throughout narrates the grandiose lyrics in a black metal scream (think Dani from Cradle of Filth without the annoying tendencies) or a low deep speaking voice that is entirely like Fernando from Moonspell. That aside, it's the music that is so amazing. Bal-Sagoth doesn't relegate their keyboards to a slave status; rather, they put them at the forefront, leading the way with classically charged passages and onslaughts. At times I hear the prog tendencies of Marillion and early Genesis, particularly in the dramatic moments. Personally I just think the British have always excelled at those sort of theatrics. This album should establish Bal-Sagoth on top of the British Black Metal crowd (keep in mind that B.B.M has little to do with the less comedic Scandanavian counterparts who merely have influenced the British sound) and in fact one of the better metal outfits around. Entirely original, very sweeping and grand.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1998

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The Power Cosmic

Bal-Sagoth - The Power Cosmic ©1999 Nuclear Blast
1. The Awakening Of The Stars
2. The Voyagers Beneath The Mare Imbrium
3. The Empyreal Lexicon
4. Of Carnage And A Gathering Of The Wolves
5. Callisto Rising
6. The Scourge Of The Fourth Celestial Host
7. Behold The Armies Of War Descend Screaming From The Heavens!
8. The Thirteen Cryptical Prophecies Of Mu

If you were expecting Bal-Sagoth to further wander down the road of progression in their music, then you might be slightly disappointed with The Power Cosmic. Obviously Bal-Sagoth has become quite comfortable with the formula they began in Starfire Burning... and further developed in Battle Magic because this new record follows it precisely and without a straying moment. This is either good or bad, depending on how much you like bands to change between records. Fans of the previous two albums will at least know this is not going to be different. Whether it's the dramatic keyboard epic opening track "The Awakening of the Stars" or simply the way the band organizes a song with stirring keyboard riffs, vocalizations, or tempo changes, not a single thing here is even remotely different. Perhaps the concept of futuristic space conquest on the same level as the movie "Stargate" is a difference. The concept is well explained in the liner notes. (Incidentally, it is apparent vocalist Byron has a wild imagination and with his sense of detail in lyric and concept, he should pursue screenplays as well as Bal-Sagoth.) For the most part, I am finding this album to be an okay journey but not really as exciting or fresh as when I first heard Bal-Sagoth. I do prefer the band challenge themselves even just a little bit when making a new record, but then again, at least this isn't actually a wretch either.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2000

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Atlantis Ascendant

Bal-Sagoth - Atlantis Ascendant ©2001 Nuclear Blast
1. The Epsilon Exordium
2. Atlantis Ascendant
3. Draconis Albionensis
4. Star-Maps Of The Ancient Cosmographers
5. The Ghosts Of Angkor Wat
6. The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyper
7. The Dreamer In The Catacombs Of Ur
8. In Search Of The Lost Cities Of Antarctica
9. The Chronicle Of Shadows
10. Six Keys To The Onyx Pyramid

Having explored space on The Power Cosmic, Bal-Sagoth plunges to the depths of the ocean floor to offer the world their take on the Atlantis legend with their latest slab of over the top, formula-ridden metal in Atlantis Ascendant. If you'll recall, I was fairly let down by The Power Cosmic for essentially rehashing the songwriting formula of Battle Magic and Starfire Burning... and unfortunately, Atlantis Ascendant is doing little to help matters. The band is still entrenched in their rut with little signs they will ever break out of it. Apparently they are comfortable repeating the same album with a different lyrical concept each time out because this album is practically interchangeable with their last three. Bal-Sagoth was exciting, invigorating and fun when I first heard Battle Magic, but hearing the same effort warmed over three times is hardly my idea of a good time nowadays. They do what they quite well, but theirs is not a thing that can be repeated multiple times the way AC/DC might. I'm certain band leader Byron Roberts is still writing some intriguing stories, but without a lyric book to read along, it's hard to follow along with his indecipherable screams and rasps. The musical backdrop is still the symphonic, keyboard flurry of orchestrated sounds over the black metal influenced speed and fury. And if you've heard any of the band's previous albums, you know precisely what to expect.

I suppose if you're fanatically attracted to their particular idiom, Atlantis Ascendant will thrill you. It is competent, but darn it, after four straight albums of similiar material, I was hoping the band would push themselves to try something different. Nothing aggravates me more than a band who is obviously very talented but seemingly refuses to challenge themselves as musicians.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 2002

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The Chthonic Chronicles

Bal-Sagoth - The Chthonic Chronicles ©2006 Nuclear Blast
1. The Sixth Adulation of His Chthonic Majesty
2. Invocations Beyond the Outer-World Night
3. Six Score and Ten Oblations To a Malefic Avatar
4. The Obsidian Crown Unbound
5. The Fallen Kingdoms of the Abyssal Plain
6. Shackled to the Trilithon of Kutulu
7. The Hammer of the Emperor
8. Unfettering the Hoary Sentinels of Karnak
9. To Storm the Cyclopean Gates of Byzantium
10. Arcana Antediluvia
11. Beneath the Crimson Vaults of Cydonia
12. Return to Hatheg-Kla

As the reigning masters of redundancy in metal, Bal-Sagoth will not surprise any listeners with their sixth bloviation, The Chthonic Chronicles. The band puts on a show of super long song titles, tons of lyrics that might make even Jello Biafra think, "Wow, these guys need to cut back on the text!", and their speedy epic sounding black metal tinged sympho-metal. If you've heard any of their previous releases, you essentially already know exactly what this album sounds like, down to the song structure level. This isn't a band that cares to reinvent themselves at all. That means a short version of this review is that if you liked their other releases (excepting, perhaps, their debut A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria) and for some reason have decided you need yet another hour of their formula, obviously this is a vital purchase. I realize that I lost interest in the band after the last two albums because there's only so much over the top pompous black metal that I can take. The other short version of a review for The Chthonic Chronicles is that if you bought Battle Magic and liked it, you already have purchased all the Bal-Sagoth you'll ever need. Bal-Sagoth never did seem to realize that their style wears thin after an album or two. I found myself enjoying a couple of the instrumental pieces primarily performed on the keyboards for their epic soundtrack quality, but in general The Chthonic Chronicles is a vastly unnecessary repeat of the band's previous few albums.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2010

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