Album Review: Battleroar - "Blood of Legends"

First off, what’s important to underline before telling the Battleroar story is that “Blood of Legends” is not merely an album. The record exists as an exhibition in craft and the ability to tell a tale through a mix of classical narrative and metal elements. The metal part of Battleroar is merely the vehicle through which the story is progressed – if the heavy elements won’t or don’t fit, Battleroar is perfectly comfortable dropping them in favor of more atmospheric accuracy.

And the atmosphere is abundant and thick for this record. Never mind the building storm of the crescendo intro “Stormgiven.” “Exile Eternal” is a song that works that solely as a function of the careful balance between the music Battleroar wants to play and the feeling they want the album to present. It’s a sweepingly undulating song, one that captures the listener through a mix of classical instrumentation and deliberate pacing. Battleroar wrote and performed the song with authority, but not with the intent of overpowering the listener – rather, they want you to be swept up in the grandiose drama of it all.

Much like many of their European and specifically Greek counterparts, Battleroar, half reformed with new members, prides themselves on the articulation of their music. There is a precision in the guitar intro of “The Swords Are Drawn” that is hard to find in most metal genres and is endemic of the entire album’s experience. The riffs are clean and clear no matter the speed, which lends the music the sensation of being more open and airy that it actually may be. It’s a clever and possibly unintentional deception, this manner of fitting more metal into less space without crowding it, but it helps this record maintain accessibility and hook.

All of this is set in a strong juxtaposition with the more placid elements of Battleroar’s idiom. The vocals of Gerrit Mutz are serene and measured, never rising into exhortation unnecessarily. He tells the story with subtlety and nuance, a seemingly lost art in the louder than loud mentality of modern power metal. The violins, which make frequent appearances throughout the record are sanguine and intentionally eschew conscious attention. It’s those little details that help shape the experience of the record.

Evaluating “Blood of Legends” as a whole is difficult. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the record and there’s no occasions where the music is boring or derivative. There’s nothing that needs to be or could be improved, no glaring omissions or horrible missteps either in execution or production. Yet, even though it’s easy to see how well built and occasionally beautiful “Blood of Legends” is, it doesn’t have a lot of ‘wow, what is this?’ moments. This makes assigning the record value hard as a reviewer, because objectively, the album is worthy of commendation, but subjectively, the record for whatever reason misses a certain joie de vivre. Doubly confounding, there’s nowhere to recommend changes that would have made the record even better; it’s airtight and well compiled.

Maybe that’s the takeaway for “Blood of Legends.” If you’re willing to give yourself to the album’s experience, be taken by the minutiae of the construction and the dedication to craft, then it will reward you with the full blossom of the music within. If, perhaps more cynically, you’ve had that experience where you know you’re handing in a B+ term paper and can’t figure out how to improve it when you crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s, then that’s what you’ll get from Battleroar’s newest record.

Nevertheless, and let’s be clear here, the record will have its fans and defenders and so it should. Battleroar has put together a pretty good album that’s worthy of all its lofty aspirations and is worth at least one spin to see what you might get out of it.

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