The Finns of BATTLELORE are back with their fifth full-length offering. During the last years they have established themselves as the third most famous of the bands closely tied to the works of JRR Tolkien, after BLIND GUARDIAN and SUMMONING. Of those three, BATTLELORE are the most stubborn in keeping the Arda-related theme, as this has been present in some form on all their records. To simplify the way this review should be read, the reader should be told what views concerning the said band that I had before I encountered this record. My impression of BATTLELORE was that of an energetic and ambitious band creating Symphonic Power Metal and having energy and nice melodies as the main strength, but a tendency to become a bit silly sometimes.
On “The Last Alliance”, the Tolkien theme continues, and the general sound is still there, but in my opinion, progress has been made. A step has been taken from the happier songs in the vein of RHAPSODY OF FIRE to a more intense and mature sound. A general problem of this band, in my opinion, has been that the melody-making has sometimes tried to become so serene and beautiful that the Metal has been placed in the shade, hence the occasional silliness mentioned. Sure, there are still many symphonic and melodious parts, but I think that BATTLELORE have managed to both lift up the Metal side with powerful drumming and heavier riffing and mature the melody-making so that it steps away from Staropoli, Turilli and their companions.
The sound is Symphonic Metal, with noticeable influences from the Power Metal they originally come from. Kaisa Jouhki’s soft female vocals combined with Tomi Mykkänen’s Death growls sound like they used to, but the alternation between them goes smoother now and I have the general feeling that the congruence between the vocals and the music is tighter and that lifts the experience. The bass-work and drumming form a strong base to build upon and I believe that they have received a bit more attention than on the earlier works. The riffing has become a bit more distorted but still belongs in the realms of Power and Heavy Metal. It has to compete with keyboard parts and in most cases the guitars cede the front place, but it has worked before for BATTLELORE, so why not?
There are not many stand-out songs on here, but instead the whole album works as a solid and qualitative entity. This is a good album in the Symphonic vein and all earlier fans of BATTLELORE will appreciate this one, as well. If you have not listened to any of their previous records, you should appreciate acts like NIGHTWISH, WITHIN TEMPTATION and pre-“Unia” SONATA ARCTICA, and be able to accept growled vocals to like this album. For those who, like me, have appreciated BATTLELORE for some qualities, but been a bit sceptic, my advice is to try this out, as the sound has been matured and intensified.
(Online October 24, 2008)