Battlesnake- The Rise and Demise of the Motorsteeple (Album Review)

July 9, 2024


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Battlesnake is one of those band names that’s such a good fit for rock and metal that you have to wonder how there haven’t already been a bunch of artists who have used it.  Based on that name, you might expect that the Sydney, Australia based group might fall somewhere between stoner rock, heavy metal, or even thrash, but I’m willing to bet Mad Max adjacent rock opera with elements of heavy metal, glam rock, prog, and everything in between would be on your bingo card.  Where their self-titled debut from last year played it a bit straighter in terms of fuzzier garage rock, heavy metal, and punk, The Rise and Demise of the Motorsteeple blows Battlesnake’s sound wide open with three guitars, keytar, and plenty of unexpected stylistic flourishes.  It’s a quick but wild ride, and despite the individual elements sounding familiar the way everything comes together results in an album that has a sound all its own.

Following the brief and moodier intro “A Blessing Of Fire And Speed”, Battlesnake launches right into high energy rock and heavy metal with “Motorsteeple”.  This one moves at a brisk pace, and the chunkier guitar tone and prominent bass recalls bands like Clutch as well as some NWOBHM, but once the keytar comes in the sound opens up further.  Some of the guitar leads bring in a bit more Thin Lizzy, while the keytar explosion towards the end channels a bit more Europe, showcasing that even in the span of three and a half minutes the band’s sound has plenty of twists and turns to offer.  “Pangea Breaker” straddles the line between hard rock and heavy metal, again giving plenty of opportunity for guitar harmonies and keytar melodies but there are some much heavier and almost doom-like moments around the halfway point.  “Alpha and Omega” is perhaps the most surprising of the early tracks, as the crunchy guitar tone and flashier glam elements subside in favor of much softer guitar melodies.  Here Battlesnake goes full-on prog rock for a few minutes, suddenly sounding closer to bands like IQ or even The Flower Kings.  It works quite well, and the way these softer interludes flow into the high-energy riffs is seamless.  Other noteworthy moments include the almost groove metal chugs of “The Key of Solomon” where the band is at their heaviest, and the catchy closer “Pterodactyl Firehawk” which throws in some surprise drum ‘n bass/dubstep in between the high energy rock.  The only song I’m not as crazy about is “I Speak Tongues” as it’s just a bit too straightforward and not nearly as memorable as the rest of the material but given the brevity The Rise and Demise of the Motorsteeple is easily digestible from start to finish.

The vocal delivery is likely to be the element of Battlesnake’s music that makes it a bit hit or miss with listeners, as it’s purposefully over-exaggerated to come off more like a rock opera style.  It often sounds like you’re hearing the singing and spoken word coming from the top of the titular motorsteeple, and there’s definitely a more fun and whimsical feel to the performance.  There are some rougher edges to the pitch on songs like “Pangea Breaker”, and the singing during the softer moments of “Alpha and Omega” help to give some depth beyond the more exaggerated narrative that makes up the bulk of The Rise and Demise of the Motorsteeple.  Stylistically it’s somewhere between Queen and Tenacious D with some additional glam rock/metal and a little modern hard rock, once again giving off a sense of familiarity while being hard to pin down.  There’s also a consistent narrative around the super cool Motorsteeple shown on the cover art, but I’ll let you discover all the details for yourself.

Having missed out on their earlier releases, Battlesnake’s The Rise and Demise of the Motorsteeple wasn’t what I was expecting based on the cover art but it’s one of the most fun albums I’ve heard in the last few months.  The exaggerated vocal style and narrative mixed with the diversity of the instrumentation makes for a rock opera adjacent release that also has plenty of substance underneath the flashiness, and whether they’re taking a dip into prog waters or delivering headbanging worthy riffs the group gives you plenty of reason to come back.  It’s clear with this latest release Battlesnake has taken both their musical and narrative ambitions to the next level, and they deserve more attention outside of just their home country for it.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg