Sunward and Starward

Feb. 27, 2018


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The Pitch: Canadian Celtic/folk melodeath band Battlesoul seriously deliver with their latest effort through CDN Records. "In Battlesoul's versatile world, the renaissance faire-like moments are never at the expense of sheer brutality." FFO: Amon Amarth, Equilibrium, Moonsorrow

What I Like: I was super stoked to come across this album, as finding any kind of folk metal worth reviewing has been seriously lacking of late. Encountering Battlesoul was like finding a crystal clear spring after being lost in a desert of mediocrity. The band prides itself in being "folk-y where they need to be," but avoiding active engagement in the usual tropes just because. As such, they bring the energy and epicness I love about campy bands like Ensiferum, but with a certain level of restraint and class. In fact, some of the riffs draw closer comparisons to Panopticon in their peaceful-yet-epic harmonies. There's some Equilibrium and Amon Amarth in there as well, but this isn't hamfisted, melodramatic fun; it feels like more of an earthbound meditation ("Arrival") with some occasional axe-swinging ("The Watcher").

What hooked me to begin with happens mere moments into the opening track, "All I Understand." Not only does this song bring undeniable, groovy hookage, but also great use of falsetto heavy metal vocals that would be cheesy in any other context. And whether you like it or not, you never hear them again. This is a pattern of Sunward and Starward: each track keeps an overall conceptual consistency while tossing out different ideas to keep the listener engaged. There are flutes, female backup vocals, synthesizers, strings, and brutal death growls to mix things up, but none of these things are allowed to become a consistent or repetetive theme. At base, the album is strung together with really solid riffs, incredible drumming, and powerful vocal performances. Everything else is "as needed." Again, "folky where it needs to be."

Critiques: There are slips in vocal quality and some pacing issues. Other than that, I'm just interested in where they go from here. They have an opportunity to dictate what's next for the genre, but doing so will be no easy feat. Attempting to top this album without over-reaching is going to be quite the tightrope act. Everything is done so well here that it might be worth going a different direction entirely. I'll leave that up to them.

The Verdict: Sunward and Starward is better than anything that the bands listed above have put out in years. Battlesoul have siphoned all of their best qualities into epic tracks like "Sunward and Starward" and "So It Goes," but without ever becoming a simple imitation. The once lean, barbaric warriors of the industry have become fat and complacent on their conquered thrones like Robert Baratheon. Now the next generation of battle-starved men and women are coming to cast them down. The cycle continues. Buy it HERE and HERE.

Flight's Fav's: All I Understand, Totem, So It Goes

-Review by FlightOfIcarus

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