Greedgripped & Spellspoilt

It seems like forever ago now (as does anything that happened in 2020) that our fearless leader Erik T forwarded me a release from Richmond’s gutter kings of dirty, DnD-loving thrash, Battlemaster. I’d had no prior knowledge or experience with the band, but right away Ghastly, Graven and Grimoireless took me by the throat and took me for a friggin’ wild, depraved ride – like an out-of-control cocaine Owlbear running rampant through the forest in desperate search of its next fix. To be exact, I believe I said they were like 3 Inches of Blood‘s paint-huffing cousin and, to this day, I regret nothing, and stand by the notion that it should be taken as high praise.

Now look, I don’t need to tell you that A LOT has gone on in the world since that humble little EP was released. You were there, you lived through it, we all have PTSD now. It’s fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE. But in case you maybe blacked out for the last 3 or so years (and who could blame you) all the proof you need that we’ve all been THROUGH IT is right here, in Battlemaster’s blistering, balls-to-the-wall new recordThe madness has been taken to a whole new level.

If the scorching opener “The Gourmand’s Appetite” doesn’t immediately let you know where this band is coming from this time around, allow me to reiterate: Greedgripped & Spellspoilt sees Battlemaster in blitzkrieg-level offense. Not that you could ever call the band subtle in it’s approach, but holy shit did they stomp on the accelerator here. We’re talking hyper-blasted drums and breakneck thrash riffs that you can all but feel shredding the skin on guitarists Alex Psitos and Brady Cole’s fingers. It’s a tone-setter to end all tone-setters, like if Robin Hood and his merry men crushed a bunch of amphetamine, did a bunch of lines, then stormed a castle and merc’d the first 10 royal motherfuckers they saw just to make sure everyone knew how this robbery was gonna go down. And it’s just the start of an entire album that treats the brake pedal like a red-headed orphan on Christmas (that’s to say, all but ignored). Just take “Elite Spectral Attache” as a prime example, starting first with another finger-annihilating riff, and then properly introduced with the unhinged warbling of vocalist Andy Horn who seems to be screaming in utter contempt at some gremlin underlings. You may also know his work with Cannabis Corpse, Crossspitter and others, in which case you’re well aware of the kind of complete lunacy he’s capable of, but this is dialed up to “11,” with the knob removed so no one could dare put a stop to it.

But it’s those guitars and drums making the biggest impact throughout this album, both entities showcase not only a greater sense of urgency, but a whole new sense of creative genius. The riffs are ceaseless, with tracks like “Extradeath” (amazing title) and “Defortressing Winter Citadelia” putting on the kind of technical masterclasses I didn’t know these guys were necessarily interested in showcasing, despite having little doubt they were ever capable of it. And the way drummer Alex Tomlin doesn’t just keep pace, but gives the band a whole other gear, it’s little wonder he’s lent his talents to the likes of Arsis, Whithered and Inter Arma when called upon for live fill-ins. And yet, the delivery and overall packaging still has just enough grime and imperfection that keeps Battlemaster just as endearing as ever – this isn’t a sterile surgical theater, it’s just a group of really friggin’ talented musicians opening the taps and letting it fly. I defy anyone to experience the absolute burners “Search for Traps” and “The Trovelord’s Altarcall” and not get completely swept away by the ceaseless fury. Andy Horn even throws a rare falsetto into the mix on the latter just for some added lunacy, taking a track that was already bonkers and making it all the more satisfying.

I don’t ever want to go so far as to say Greedgripped & Spellspoilt shows a band “growing up” or “maturing,” it’s just a more balanced effort, like the band learned to throw some adderall into the mix before taking off on a bender, just to make sure they’re more aware of the destruction they’re leaving in their path. It is, far and away, their greatest achievement to date, and despite my insistence that this record be celebrated for it’s manic, unbridled madness – I do hope it helps the band get taken just a little more seriously, if only to get them the recognition they deserve. Battlemaster hasn’t exactly put down the sock and spray paint and gone straight, but they’re functioning at a level never before experienced. Get in on this twisted ride while it’s still on the rails.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
December 6th, 2023


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