Traditional epic metal with a focus on brilliant riffs
When people think of metal they don't think of Greece. And if they do then they obviously dropped out of geography at school. Greece has never been very well known for its role in the metal scene, despite the fact that it is home to great bands like Firewind and Rotting Christ, and home to some great metal festivals such as the Rockwave festival. To assume that Greece is un-metal may be premature, but understandable given the uproar that they kicked up over the inclusion of Lordi in the 2006 Eurovision.
Despite all this, metal has once again shown its strength with the traditional epic metal band Battleroar. Formed in 2000, To Death And Beyond... is the bands third full length album. This is the bands first album on the Cruz Del Sur label, and it is a testament to the bands strength and live presence that they have built themselves such a huge reputation given their label and line up changes in the past.
In many ways the album is a continuation of a trilogy that was started with the 2002 debut Battleroar and 2005's Age Of Chaos. That may make it a concept album, which many metal heads will surely cringe at, but the concepts are loosely applied as the power and brilliance of the songs clearly takes precedence. The basis of the concept is a warrior and his mindset as he realizes that his greatest battle is coming to an end, but at the same time, he also realizes that his life will also end. Whilst listening to the amazing riffs and music that's on offer throughout this album, I recommend that everybody pays attention to some of the lyrics, because these guys are on par with Amon Amarth when it comes to the genius of their songwriting, something that I hold in very high regard.
The opening track The Wrathforge has a relaxed atmosphere about it, without being lifeless and boring. The lead guitar is strong and dominating as it soars above all else to create a surreal atmosphere. Dragonhelm shows a strong Manowar influence with soaring melodies in the verses and anthemic choruses that are shouted across the skies in true power metal fashion. I can only imagine how amazing these guys would be live, as their rhythm guitar is strong and catchy, and their instrumentals provide them with so much unstoppable energy. Finis Mundi contains an acoustic interlude that can be thought of as the eye of the storm, as it doesn't take long for the distortion to return and the thrashing to kick back into action. There is a strong influence from bands such as Jag Panzer and Edguy in this song, and considering that Battleroar toured with these bands in their early days it is pretty understandable. Metal From Hellas is a bit of an annoyance and a bad apple in the barrel. The vocals sound a lot like Andi Deris of Helloween, but it is a random, seemingly drunk shout that penetrates the melody every minute or so that makes this song just so annoying.
Thankfully this is followed by the brilliant, rhythmic stomper Hyrkanian Blades, and vocalist Marco Concoreggi sounds so much like Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson that it is a major credit to the quality of his vocal range. Oceans Of Pain manages to transcend genres, as it combines the epic breadth and instrumental dominance of prog metal, the brilliant riffing and tone of thrash and there is even an interlude that contains the harmonies of a flute to enhance the atmosphere of the concept, so we can add folk metal in there as well. Born In The 70's is what metal is about. Pride of youth and pride of a time when metal was young and original. This song is all about what classic metal was and unfortunately is no longer. The album concluder Death Before Disgrace is an epic and powerful masterpiece, right down to every word of the lyrics, and an awesome way to end such an amazing concept.
To Death And Beyond... is quite frankly brilliant. The guitars, the vocals (which take on many quality personas), the songwriting, it is all tight, precise and most of all interesting. I believe that Battleroar have just created something that will launch their music career far in a genre that I think has been very mediocre in the past few years. Maybe Greece can use Battleroar to get back at the Finns by coaxing them into the next Eurovision...
(Cruz Del Sur Music)