Blazon Rite, Endless Halls Of Golden Totem (Gates Of Hell Records 2021)

Philadelphia metal molders Blazon Rite keep the campaign going with their new long-player, Endless Halls Of Golden Totem.

Last year’s EP Dulce Bellum Inexpertis was filled with portents and promise. It showed an approach to Epic Metal that was solid and expansive, a wall of sound built to the top. The new album not only continues the ideas signaled in the earlier work but also expands on them. Blazon Rite is James Kirn (guitar), Johnny Halladay (vocals), Pierson Roe (bass, synth, and guitar), Kay Hamacher (guitar), and Ryan Haley (drums).

There are eight tracks on the new album, and they display a greater narrative variety compared to the earlier release because Endless Halls Of Golden Totem is not a themed album. “Legends of Time and Eidolon” starts the boulder rolling with a commanding guitar riff that is quickly surrounded by the rhythm section and a synth line. Johnny Halladay’s voice rises, sounding like a traveling mage delivering the harrowing tale from village to village. The lead guitar skips in trippingly with bright colors highlighting the deepening story and completing it.

Every song on the album is constructed with the same thoughtful complexity and earnest roundedness. The styles vary from one to the next offering a rich listening environment. The music has roots in classic metal while pushing grand stories and power metal appreciations. The opening bars of “Put Down Your Steel” reminded me a little of Judas Priest but the rest of the song didn’t. “The Executioner’s Woe” made me instantly – and only for an instant – remember Rainbow’s Long Live Rock ’n’ Roll before moving off in other directions.

The title track alternates between power metal pronouncements and quieter moments while “Alchemist’s Brute” offers a light-hearted eeriness. The final song is “Into Shores Of Blood” and it is somber and sorrowful to begin with but turns up the tension and volume after a couple minutes to deliver a colossal sound. Blazon Rite made a good decision to create this kind of album in all its variety that nevertheless preserves in each song the band’s core principles. Recommended.

Endless Halls Of Golden Totem is out from Gates Of Hell Records this Friday, June 18th, in digital, CD, and vinyl forms.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://blazonrite.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blazonriteofficial

Gates of Hell Records, http://www.gatesofhellrecords.com/

Review of Dulce Bellum Inexpertis, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/09/22/blazon-rite-dulce-bellum-inexpertis-review-gates-of-hell-records-2020/

Blazon Rite, Endless Halls Of Golden Totem (Gates Of Hell Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol reimagines music that was long thought forgotten for their new EP.

The California metal band Cirith Ungol released four albums in the 1980s to early 1990s, most notably (for me anyway), King Of The Dead (1984). Big dark fantasy themes, wailing guitars, and the unique and unforgettable voice of Tim Baker helped write the band’s name in the book of eternity. They passed into the mist only to return in 2019 with a live album and in 2020 with their first studio release in decades, the earth shaking Forever Black. Cirith Ungol was definitely back. The band is Tim Baker (vocals), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), Robert Garven (drums), Jim Barraza (guitar), and Jarvis Leatherby (bass).

Half Past Human contains four songs from the vaults – songs that were written but never released during earlier sessions. These pieces have been re-worked and newly invigorated for fans to hold them over until the touring starts up again.

“Route 666” revs to life with a roaring engine and hits the road with pelting goodtime riffs and pops. Dual complementary lead guitars are the highlight. “Shelob’s Lair” sends us on a trek through the darkness and lifts us up with an energetic and impassioned lead break and outro. “Brutish Manchild” is the shortest track and could function well as a single or a rousing live standard to whip the crowd into a frenzy at just the right moment.

The closer is “Half Past Human,” and it is more on the epic side than the others. The song starts out quietly, forlornly, then builds steadily to a louder, fuller sound. The composition has a sweeping production with extended elements that highlight the best aspects of the band and never overstay their welcome. It is just the right nightcap, and it is good to have these songs finally released. Fans will be delighted that they are seeing the light of day. Recommended.

Half Past Human is out on Friday, May 28th, and can be accessed through the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://cirithungol.bandcamp.com/album/half-past-human

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cirithungolofficial

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/cirithungol/

FFMB review of Forever Black, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/04/25/cirith-ungol-forever-black-review-metal-blade-records-2020/

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Enslaved, Utgard review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

The incredible 15th album from the Bergen, Norway metal band Enslaved is Utgard, another impressive achievement in their long career.

The most recent previous studio album was E in 2017, and the songs on that album were generally long (most around eight minutes or longer), which is the usual way Enslaved creates music. On Utgard, the band’s compositions are tighter and yet every bit as creative as earlier releases. The band is now made up of long-time members Grutle Kjellson (vocals and bass), Ivar Bjørnson (guitars and effects), and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal (guitars), along with newer recruits Håkon Vinje (keyboards and vocals) and Iver Sandøy (drums). The confluence of these musical elements is an alchemy all its own.

“Fires In The Dark” opens with an acapella treatment (in Norwegian), followed by an acoustic guitar moment, sudden heavy riffs, wispy atmospheric sounds, then a narrative element. Sort of a heavy version of Andrew Lloyd Weber in that it is a big production and a complex construction. The melodies in the guitars have a very magic carpet, djinn feel to them in the second half – a mystical desert vibe. The integration of diverse elements is the mainstay throughout. “Jettegryta,” the next song, does this too, in a very different way. It is not simply the variation of coarse and clean vocals but also shifts in musical cadence and style, sometimes perpendicularly, that throw you off cliff after cliff then lift you up on hurricane winds. We hear Epic Metal then Prog then a classic metal riff, here and there and all around.

On side two, “Urjotun” is a peppy straight-up prog rock song that is taken over by darkness as it progresses. “Flight of Thought and Memory” wells up feelings of sorrow and regret, while “Storms of Utgard” is more confrontational with amazing lead guitar work. The closing song is “Distant Seasons.” You can feel the curtain falling when it begins in its quiet and gentle way, but the power wells up soon enough. The relatively brief nature of the songs is a departure in a way for the band, but all the elements we have come to expect from Enslaved are nevertheless here in full force. Recommended.

Out now from Nuclear Blast, you can get Utgard on CD and vinyl and of course as a download – Bandcamp is best place for the digital.

Links.

Band: http://enslaved.no/

Band Bandcamp: https://enslaved.bandcamp.com/album/utgard

Band Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enslaved

Nuclear Blast Shop: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/vinyl/lp/enslaved-utgard-black-vinyl-.html

Enslaved, Utgard review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

Grendel’s Sÿster, Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

The Myrtle Wreath EP from Grendel’s Sÿster gets a well-deserved broad re-release with Cruz Del Sur Music.

Everybody knows that Grendel’s mother was the one to watch out for, but nobody knows what to expect from his sister. That’s how I felt dropping the (virtual) needle on Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz. – I hadn’t heard any of the band’s work before. They are a Folk Metal trio from Germany. This EP came out in 2019 and is getting wider distribution now. They also released an EP in 2018: Orphic Gold Leaves/Orphische Goldblättchen.

The thing about Folk Metal for me is that I have a short list of bands I like. Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Týr, a few others. I am not a deep diver in these waters, so I do not have a learned opinion. I just know whether I like what I hear. I really like Myrtenkranz.

There are seven songs and an intro bit, and they are presented in two versions each – one in English and one in German. I have a strong and abiding preference for the versions in German. No, I don’t speak German. To my ear singing in German simply sounds better with the music. Grendel’s Sÿster does not sound anything like the bands I listed, really. They are very much on the Folk side of Folk Metal. Plainly, it is like listening to folk songs that employ (fuzzy) electric guitars for instruments. The vocals are beautifully melodic and clear. Beyond traditional Folk constructions, many of the songs have the epic and march urgency heard in music from bands like Falconer, but not as loud. Lead guitar expressions are also low key and tastefully executed. This is a great album for when you are not in the mood to have your block knocked completely off. Recommended.

The physicals start shipping September 25, and the digital is available now at Bandcamp and elsewhere. The first EP Orphic Gold Leaves is not on Spotify (last time I looked) and the hardcopies are sold out, but you can still get the English vocal version as a download.

Links.

https://grendelssyster.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic/

https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/blog/

https://cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com/

Grendel’s Sÿster, Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)