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Bal-Sagoth - Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule (9/10) - Great Britain - 1996

Genre: Epic Metal
Label: Cacophonous Records
Playing time: 57:36
Band homepage: Bal-Sagoth

Tracklist:

  1. Bullshit CD-ROM Track
  2. Black Dragons Soar Above The Mountain Of Shadows (Prologue)
  3. To Dethrone The Witch-Queen Of Mytos K'unn (The Legend Of The Battle Of Blackhelm Vale)
  4. As The Vortex Illuminates The Crystalline Walls Of Kor-Avul-Thaa
  5. Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
  6. Journey To The Isle Of Mists (Over The Moonless Depths Of Night-Dark Seas)
  7. The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean Empire
  8. And Lo, When The Imperium Marches Against Gul-Kothoth, Then Dark Sorceries Shall Enshroud The Citadel Of The Obsidian Crown
  9. Summoning The Guardians Of The Astral Gate
  10. In The Raven-Haunted Forests Of Darkenhold, Where Shadows Reign And The Hues Of Sunlight Never Dance
  11. At The Altar Of The Dreaming Gods (Epilogue)
Bal-Sagoth - Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
BAL-SAGOTH just rules. It is so hard to believe this came out in 1996, as it sounds ahead of it's time even today. With "A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria" these Brits had burst upon an unsuspecting scene, and far from a sophomore slump, this second chapter in their saga is one of their finest moments, an improvement in every way over the first.

No one can really imagine the sound of BAL-SAGOTH until they've heard it, comparisons do only so much good. If you can imagine the sound of EMPEROR crossed with RHAPSODY and infused with the spirit of Conan the Barbarian, you'd be getting close. Everyone's first reaction to this band is a confused stare, so don't feel bad. After the initial bewilderment, this is a band you either get, or you don't. I get it, and I love it. BAL-SAGOTH have gone beyond the simple idea of a concept album to produce a concept band - an idea that provides infinitely more opportunity for histrionic cheesiness. BAL-SAGOTH have become known for their intricate lyrics, bombastic arrangements, ax-and-warpaint stage theatrics, and a level of devotion to pulpy fantasy that would make HAMMERFALL blush.

However, image and attitude are not everything, and none of this would fly if the music wasn't cool. So it's good that the music here is uniformly so cool it makes me want to strap on a sword and raid Blockbuster for Godzilla movies. BAL-SAGOTH never skimp on the music, and 'restraint' is not a word in their vocabulary. These songs are big, almost bloated with epicness: from the movie-soundtrack sweep of the opener "Black Dragons Soar…" through the bloody, epic "Dethrone The Witch-Queen Of Mytos K'unn" to the album highlight "Starfire Burning.." there isn't a clinker in the batch. The whole CD is an epic (there's that word again) journey from beginning to end, and when it's over you feel like you've watched a very cool barbarian-fantasy movie, complete with special effects by Ray Harryhausen.

The CD package is cool, with a moody cover painting and all the lyrics included. The only problem I have is the bullshit 'interactive' track that is just an ad for Cacophonous shit, none of which I would bet is even available anymore. And yet we are stuck with this gay-ass CD-ROM track rendering the CD unplayable on my computer. It is impossible for me to articulate how much I hate this kind of crap.

I love BAL-SAGOTH, and this is one of their best CDs. Fans of the band must have this, no question, and if your taste in Metal runs to the weird and fantastical, you should have this too. BAL-SAGOTH have their own inimitable style, and no one can beat them at what they do. An excellent CD from one of Metal's few true originals. Go get it. (Online October 20, 2003)

Paul Batteiger



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