Chapter three in the epic BAL-SAGOTH saga finds the band solidifying their sound as well as trying some new things. As essentially a continuation of the previous opus "Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule", "Battle Magic" offers more of the Symphonic/Black/War Metal assault this band is known for, as well as a much shorter title. That last being a relief to us album reviewers.
What to say about this album? If you are a fan then you can buy this with a clear conscience, as this is one of their best. If you don't know this band, then describing this is going to be hard. BAL-SAGOTH build on a Black Metal base and add movie-soundtrack keyboards. Atmospheric interludes backed by theatrical narration trade off with hyperblast passages and shrieking vocals. The whole is a bizarre and iconoclastic sound unlike quite unlike anyone else. Most more extreme bands avoid the whole Conan/Barbarian/Fantasy lyrical thing, leaving it to the Power Metal bands, but BAL-SAGOTH proudly wallow in cheesy fantasy themes with unabashed glee. After the expected instrumental intro, the album seques right into "Naked Steel" with the bellow "The Crows Shall Pick Your Bones Clean!" and after that this CD punches out one killer track after another: "A Tale From The Deep Woods" (One of my personal favourites), "When Rides The Scion Of Storms", "Thwarted By The Dark". "Battle Magic" contains some of BAL-SAGOTH's finest moments. "Blood Slakes The Sand At The Circus Maximus" is the longest track on here and with its extended narration and calliope-style music it comes off as a bit too self-indulgent and silly, especially at over 8 minutes in length.
I love this band, but BAL-SAGOTH are one of those bands you either get or you don't. If you don't get it, then this album won't win you over. But for those fortunate souls who do get it and get a big smile on their faces at the mention of the band's name, this is a must have. And as this is a good bit more melodic than previous releases, it does make a decent introduction to this unique band with their unique sound. Recommended. (Online October 29, 2003)