Where the Shadows Lie

By all accounts, this should have been an album I truly loved. Fantasy-based epic metal is my vice, and when confronted with a moniker like Battlelore, and song titles like “Swordmaster,” “Raging Goblin” and “Ride with the Dragons,” I’m pretty much a child in a candy store. That is providing the music fits in with the other elements.Unfortunately, Battlelore’s over-the-top imagery and Tolkein-based lyrical concepts are nothing more than window-dressing for some very average, mildly thrashy metal.

Firstly, the band are all dressed in full garb as characters from Middle-Earth legend, including a Uruk-Hai; very impressive, I must admit, but wholly empty when considering the content within. Secondly, the majesty and epic tales of Middle-Earth deserve more than second rate thrash riffs with some out-of-place and unconvincing synths thrown in.If I sound harsh, it’s because this lot had me primed to be blown away by a scathing war metal attack with powerful riffs and soaring, rage inducing keyboards. Instead I got some plodding unimaginative guitar work laced with some unconvincing keyboards. Granted as just riffs they are decent, but when trying to convey the vast imagery of a legendary fantastical lore, they fail miserably and would have simply sounded better on a regular thrash/death metal album.

The only moments that had me vaguely exited was the ending of “Raging Goblin” that has a heavy rolling finale. “Journey into Undying Lands” also has a nice early Beseech-like dual vocal, gothic quality about it. Other than that, I really didn’t find myself carried to the distant realms of Summoning or Bal-Sagoth.

The fault lies purely in the songwriting. This type of music requires a certain attitude and delivery, all bundled up with the requisite imagery.  In this case, it seems Battlelore came up with the image, then decided, ‘Ok, what kind of metal shall we play?’  It’s a real shame, because each member appears to have adequate talent at his or her craft. Elven beauty Kaisa Jouhki has a beguiling voice (the album’s highlight) and Tomi Havo has a suitably raging yet decipherable roar while the guitars are rich and the drums pound, all to no avail ‘ sadly, it’s due to the lack of creativity and imagination in the song structures.”The songs simply fail to stick.

Utilizing the aforementioned dual vocal styles with a rather wimpy clean male voice, Battlelore have taken a subject ripe for brilliant songwriting and only come up with some very unimpressive material.  Back to the synths, as this is where things start to fall apart for the implementation of the already lacking music. The song “Shadowgate” really did it in for me. It features an electric/futuristic synth noise (that appears on “Ride with the Dragons” also) that sounds more like Source Of Tide or Fear Factory, and is completely foreign, even on this album. I’m pretty sure dwarves and orcs did not march to battle to the sound of industrial programming effects.

The rest of the album is more “fantasy” sounding, but lacks the necessary grandiosity to propel the rest of music into more atmospheric realms. They range from ivory tinkling to some questionable sounds that make Bal-Sagoth’s pompous programmed noise sound almost realistic. I get the impression Battlelore was trying to make an accessible “Tolkien” based album, and not paint themselves into a black or death metal corner, but the lack of a distinctive metal style may have hurt them. Now if Battlelore had set out to release an average vaguely thrash metal album, based on Tolkien, then they succeeded. If they set out to create an epic, powerful album that portrays the eternal struggles, conflict, death and victory of Middle-Earth, they failed worse than Saruman himself.

I really wanted to like this, but even with the excellent imagery and concepts, the music is still substandard.”I hate writing negative reviews, even more so for something I should have really liked on paper. Battlelore have the tools to do something very special with their chosen outlet, so hopefully with their second album they can fulfill that vast potential.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
February 26th, 2002


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