Rampant mimicry is a large part of metal; Whether in the rip-off or homage category. There are 1000s of Cannibal Corpse clones. Just as many Suffocation clones and don’t get me started on Bolt Thrower and Entombed/Dismember. And those bands have their place, especially as the originals flag or call it quits. Some are really fucking good, some even outpace their peers.

But give me a Bal-Sagoth clone. Go ahead…I’ll wait…

And no, you can’t say Kull, that is cheating, as they actually have 3 Bal-Sagoth members and are basically Bal-Sagoth operating under a new name.

Still waiting…

OK, I’ll give you a band, a band I just discovered and released their debut album last year digitally only (and who I mentioned on my 2021 year-end list), but now has re-released it on CD via Poland’s Wolfspell Records, so I’m now delighted I can review it AND put it on my 2022 year-end list!!!

I give you Hungary’s Runeshard.

Folks, this isn’t just Bal-Sagoth influenced, or kinda sounds like Bal-Sagoth, this is a full-on Bal-Sagoth revering love fest. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking you are in fact listening to anything from the Starfire to Atlantis Ascendant era as they have absolutely perfectly recreated that sound with unabashed, note for note accuracy. The duo of guitarist keyboardist Bálint Kemény (who is in a fun little power/black /folk metal band, Elanor) and vocalist Henry Mahy (whose other solo project, Zel Agganor, is also heavily Bal Sagoth inspired) have clearly spent a lot of time with the aforementioned records and come up with one of the more perfectly rendered homages I’ve heard from any band in any genre.

There’s the requisite instrumental intro (“Heralds of the Thurian Age”) and outro (“Beyond the Mystical Aura”); a staple of all the Bal Sagoth albums. The synths are spot on majestic, nigh cheesy, brass-heavy Jonny Maudling Esque synths. There are ample high fantasy references to spires, dragons, frost, blood, battles, scepters, swords, warriors, and sorcerers from Mahy who has an absolute spot-on impersonation of Lord Byron’s high-pitched screams and dramatic narrations, though he is slightly less verbose.

But there is a point about 1:15 into the first ‘real’ track “The Last Geas”, where it comes together to form a HOLY FUCK THAT’S PURE BAL SAGOTH!!!! moment. And from there, the album never looks back over its frost encased armor. Are almost every minute of the criminally short 35 minutes run time is full of those moments that will bring a huge grin to any fan of Bal-Sagoth. The playful, grandiose, brass-drenched gallops or dramatic voice-over and crystalline, keyboard tinkling on the more restrained moments are just pure bliss. It really can’t be overstated just listen to “Altar of the Wyrm” or the absolutely stunning, epic, 11-minute title track and just take it in.

The only minor downside is that Shadowbane is a mere 35 minutes and there are only 3 actual songs ( though when paired with the band’s equally good 2018 EP, The Dreaming Spire you get a more solid amount of material). By the emblazoned swords gleaming ‘twixt the armies of the dreaming spire, I want more!!!!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 13th, 2022


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