Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Battleroar - Blood of Legend (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 6/5/2014
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music

‘Blood of Legend’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Stormgiven (03:52)
2). The Swords are Drawn (05:26)
3). Poisoned Well (07:14)
4). Blood of Legends (05:41)
5). Immortal Chariot (07:21)
6). The Curse of Medea (05:34)
7). Valkyries Above (08:48)
8). Chivalry (Noble Armor) (04:45)
9). Exile Eternal (07:57)
10). Relentless Waves (03:04)

Battleroar is:

Alex Papadiamantis | Violin
Nick Papadopoulos | Drums
Kostas Tzortzis | Guitars
Andreas Sotiropoulos | Guitars
Stavros Aivaliotis | Bass
Gerrit Mutz | Vocals


'Anyone with real experience of the Greeks outside Anglosphere diasporas and all inclusive holidays will know they do things different to us Brits.

This is a land with one foot in the past. Their elite position in antiquity notwithstanding, the Greeks are largely a people of tradition, with family taking centre stage, gender expectations still firm, and cultural norms preserved. They value the past and are loathe to forget it - from the great wars, wisdom and myths of millennia past to the German/Turkish foreign subjugation and territorial disputes in Cyprus and FYROM of more recent decades.

Putting this into perspective helps one understand how the Greeks have also managed to hold onto something we as a nation seem to have shed - passion. Love, rage, despair, jealousy, all came roaring from their manifestations in mythology to the present day, passed down generation to generation like genes. This translates to a sense of shameless expression, whether that is joy or grief or everything in-between that would be considered histrionic by north Europeans.

Interesting, sure, and also crucial to the understanding of Battleroar as a band. On their fourth full-length, 'Blood of Legends', Athens' Battleroar continue their brand of epic heavy metal after two poorly produced initial albums and 2008's excellent (and incredibly well produced) 'To Death and Beyond...'. Complete with album artwork so bad it wouldn't even be seen in a 1992 issue of White Dwarf, to overlook this gem of an album would be leaving fans of old school true metal all the poorer.

Musically the aforementioned shameless expression is in full swing for Battleroar as they embrace every trope and cliche of heavy metal with fervour, reaching fever pitch with the chanting of 'Warriors, waaaarriors!' of 'Poisoned Well' that leads into a screaming guitar line so perfect it serves at a litmus test of just how much you love metal. Drums are big and straight, fist pumping stuff totally. Guitar parts are chugged, squealed and sung in true heavy metal style, and damn!! Will some of those riffs get stuck in your head (I had one from 'To Death and Beyond...' repeating in my sleep for about three hours one night).

Vocals, like guitar, are exactly what you would expect - competent infectious melodic lines coming thick and fast, regardless of it being a verse or chorus. Just try and not sing along (again, if you don't you ain’t metal). And the bass, well it follows the chord progression and, as is common in the genre, serves as a necessary presence more than a distinct entity. Writing-wise, Battleroar really hit their stride when writing their metal epics, with four of the ten songs breaking the 7 minute mark and being all the richer for it.

Returning to the archetypal Greek traits previously described, Battleroar's music begins to take on a new inflection. While in the UK true metal is kept at a safe distance lest it infect you with its severe lack of coolness, these Greeks embrace it's every outdated idiosyncrasy. At its core, heavy metal is power, brotherhood, and living life on your own terms, and these traits run parallel to the Greek character to a spectacular degree.

Modern Greek history is characterised by its struggle for independence - from the Turks, from the European Union, and from preying foreign powers in the wake of its economic miseries. Likewise, metal is about freedom from the status quo and pressures of a society that tells you to cut your hair, fit in and stop buying black t-shirts. Central to their culture is also the concept of 'xenia', brutally simplified to English as meaning warm hospitality, which can be seen in the inclusiveness and brotherhood of metal heads across the world. We metal heads can spot each other a mile off and all good ones take great pleasure in accommodating one another and welcoming you to the larger group. Really, in what other genre could a band get away with the line 'I walked inside so I could hear, and the guy beside me gave me a beer' (Manowar - Die For Metal)?

Finally is the sense of identity and connection to your land and history that both share. Greeks are understandably proud of their ancestors' achievements and feel a deep attachment to their land and heritage; just as Iron Maiden did with songs such as 'Aces High' or even as the second wave black metallers did when they were burning down churches. History, pride and nationalism, for better or worse, go hand in hand with so much of Greek identity and the metal experience.

Despite the seeming severity of much of the aforementioned, your average Greek metal head just want to be with those they love and have fun, and Battleroar deliver the latter in spades. From the big choruses to the endless head banging riffs, 'Blood of Legends' for all it's minor key basis will leave you smiling. Still not feeling the point of this review? Just watch the film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzaki's 'Zorba the Greek' and tell me that guy wouldn't be wearing a Kiss t-shirt if he was born 50 years later.'

Words by: Jake Mazlum

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD/LP copy here.

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