Battlesword - Banners of Destruction - (8.5/10)
Published on April 21, 2016
Some bands just almost magically attract comparisons with other bands. Have a band play melodic death metal with plenty of double bass, hardly any blastbeats and a deep, intelligible growl, it’s inevitable that the name of Amon Amarth is being tossed around. German Battlesword are one of these bands that keep being compared with Amon Amarth and their second album Banners of Destruction, their first since 2003’s Failing in Triumph, is one glorious example for how comparisons like this can be equally right and wrong.
Right as in that the quintet does utilize some of the same elements, no doubt, but there are plenty of distinct differences. Axel Müller’s voice sounds more hoarse and the leads are by far not as prominent. That being said, though, Battlesword do not lack melodies, quite the contrary, the weave in plenty of them into powerful, dynamic compositions that don’t need blasts and hyperblasts and garglegrunt vocals to get their message across.
“Spirit to the Flesh” mostly operates in the mid-paced regions with some excursions to either side, but the band is far from one-dimensional. “The Unnamed Magic” is a great example, which at times almost has the character of a death metal ballad, slow to mid paced, with melancholic melodies and lyrics to fit, but the Germans make it work and they make it work well. And overall the band rarely lets the hammer fly free, but shows restraint within their arrangements, without going down Wimp Boulevard. The stomping power of “Grave New World”, the more galloping approach of dynamic wunderkind “Tongues of Hatred” that is laced with melodic leads and melancholic atmosphere that offsets the thundering double-bass when they show up, giving it its very own character.
The a little more aggressive and direct nature of “Bloodlust Symphony” is still enhanced by the very melody driven middle piece before returning to the sharp riffing of before, underlining that Battlesword are definitely not a one-sword Teuton, just listen to “Where Demons Awake”, which is one of the most dynamic tracks of Banners of Destruction. And all of this is just another proof that Battlesword do not sound like Amon Amarth, period.
It is hard to imagine that an album of this calibre has been released independently, while many labels seem content enough to follow the flavours of the day with frightening precision. Sure, Battlesword might not have the mass market appeal of other bands (even though if one wants to throw in Amon Amarth to promote this album, one might be surprised), but quality metal will have its audience and Banners of Destruction is most definitely a highlight in the melodic death metal genre that many established acts will have to measure themselves against this year!