Blazon Rite
Wild Rites and Ancient Songs

By this point ya’ll probably know my theory about the world of Traditional Heavy Metal, where bands do battle in my own mind in an attempt to claim the throne of Heavy Metal supremacy. Again, I will not apologize for my own stupidity, this is just who I am.

But here’s the thing – in such a scenario, not everyone can be the mighty warrior on the battlefield. Someone has to hang back to take it all in, so that later they may tell the stories of honor, bloodshed and glory to the masses, weaving tales and creating the legends these hearty warriors aim to become.

Somebody needs to be the bard. And in my mind? There’s no better band for the job than Philadelphia’s Blazon Rite.

Don’t get it twisted, this is not to say Blazon Rite‘s brand of Heavy Metal isn’t plenty mighty in its own right. Since the band hit the scene with the debut EP Dulce Bellum Inexpertis, they’ve been carefully honing their craft to become sharper, more crisp and polished – not so much like a sword or battle axe, but like a seasoned and well-traveled musician with a perfectly tuned lute. One who has worked their voice to the perfect pitch and tone, able to weave entrancing melodies to set the right mood, give the proper weight and inflection to turn a good story into a work of myth and legend. Where their earliest work felt like listening to a charming, good-natured (if somewhat rowdy) drunkard spinning yarn at the bar for the sake of pure entertainment, Wild Rites and Ancient Songs showcases a band with enough experience to know how to maintain a steady buzz not just for the sake of a good time, but also loosen the tongue just enough to be able to speak with fluid confidence and poetic flair.

The biggest reason for this bard-like status comes directly from front man Jason Halladay, whose growth as a singer and songwriter continues to show itself in spades. The man has always has a thoroughly charismatic charm with his vocal delivery, but where once he grabbed your attention through sheer exuberance, he now has some real chops to back up the enthusiasm. When he croons about his need to be free to roam the lands and conquer new quests on the daily on “Salvage What You Can of the Night,” you not only want him to keep telling you this epic tale, you’re practically rooting for him to win back his freedom. Go, my guy! I’m not one often desperate to meet my favorite musicians, but I want to be friends with this guy. As if just to prove his own improved vocal might, the beginning of “The Fall of a Once Great House” shows off his ability to really reach down into his feels to paint a picture of loss and despair, before flipping the mood around on its head – taking inevitable doom and destruction coming to our dear heroes, and turning tragedy into everlasting honor and glory. Sounds pretty legendary, right? The man understood the assignment.

And it’s not just Halladay doing to work to paint these epic pictures. Guitarists James Kirn and Pierson Roe have also been busy taking their craft to new levels, deftly changing pace and interweaving melodies where appropriate to fit the mood of Halladay’s story telling. The guitars on tracks like “Mark of the Stormborn Riders” and “Troubadours of the Final Quarrel” really lay a rousing, victorious foundation that get you battle-ready and ready to meet your fate with bloodthirsty glee, the former busting one of the more righteous, gnarly guitar dive bombs I’ve heard in a bit which, FUCK YEAH (obviously), and the latter showing off a thrashier side from the band than we’re normally used to, but still maintaining the band’s trademark melody to keep it good and catchy. The track also breaks out the use of gang vocals during the earworm of a chorus, with the shouts of “RAGNAROK!” inspiring everyone within a 5 mile radius to scream along. If anything, I feel it’s an element the band should be utilizing more to encourage more of that crowd-pleasing, good-time-having atmosphere the band does such a nice job of cultivating already.

If I have any complaints about Wild Rites and Ancient Songs, I suppose they sit opposite my earlier compliments about Blazon Rite showcasing more experience and “maturity” with their second full-length. When the band released their first, Endless Halls of Golden Totem, I pointed out that in the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal, no one was having more fun than Blazon Rite. Where you get the sense that other modern titans like Eternal Champion, Megaton Sword or Gatekeeper (all of whom I adore) all carry a bit more of a serious demeanor about them, Blazon Rite’s seemingly boundless exuberance and energy set them apart for a much more joyous, celebratory listening experience. Make no mistake, this is still true with Wild Rites and Ancient Songs, but the mood is trending slowly towards the more serious, and I find myself missing the sheer fun and audacity of a track like medieval bedroom anthem “Put Down Your Steel (Only for the Night)” or even the unexpected perspective of the mournful executioner on “Executioner’s Woe,” as he laments the struggles of waking up day after day to cut people’s heads off… Yeah, ok, you could say that sounds depressing, but there’s just something delightfully silly about it, too. Wild Rites is still here for a good time, I just wish there was a little more of the goofiness.

Quibble aside, this album is still a joy to listen to, and only further solidifies my conviction that Blazon Rite may not be the battle-tested warriors of their peers, but instead carry on as the noble bards we all want and need in this world. So re-fill your steins and bring on another round, because our friends from Philly have some more fantastic, epic tales to tell, and you’d be a sucker to miss out on them.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
April 20th, 2023


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