Bal-Sagoth - Battle Magic
Cacophonous Records
Disney Metal
10 songs (49:47)
Release year: 1998
Bal-Sagoth, Cacophonous Records
Reviewed by Jay
Archive review

I do not even know where to begin. To this day, this is one of the most staggering albums I have ever heard or will ever hear. I know drugs must have been involved when some guys said, “Hey, let’s set Disney style songs to metal,” and Bal-Sagoth was born. This band is probably one of the strangest bands to ever come along speaking in terms of the music alone. Black metal combined with Casio keyboards and insane over-the-top vocals come together to form one of the weirdest listening experiences ever. At times it’s great, at times it’s shit and at times it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Whatever you want to call it, it is unmistakably Bal-Sagoth.

Battle Magic marked the conclusion of a trilogy of albums. This band, masterminded by Brit Lord Byron, combines avant-garde black metal with the symphonic stylings of Rhapsody. However unlike Rhapsody, their production leaves much to be desired. The drums are good but sound like they were recorded in a bathroom. The hits are not sharp, sound distant and shallow. The cymbals are tinny and sound to brite. In addition to the terrible recording, the drum kit volume is so low that it’s virtually lost in the mix. The guitar has similar problems. The guitar has the exact same sound on the whole album. There is only one guitar track and the sound is thin. The bass is virtually non-existent. The most notable features are the vocals and the keyboards. The keyboards sound like $8.99 Casio keyboards with the horns effect on. The music is well composed and well mixed but the keyboard sound is so childish and sophomoric.

The vocals are the part of the recording that the most attention has been paid. Lord Byron (who has done many narrations due to his incredible diction) is a wizard on vocals. Able to do black, death and clean vocals, he throws a myriad of styles at us. While he does use effects, he is unmistakable. His lyrics are interesting too. He has such an amazing command of the English language; a skill which is seldom come by. He also uses words that even I have to look up in the dictionary. Many of them are antiquated words that are no longer in the popular lexicon. He uses so many effects because he has to vocalize many different characters in the epic story being told. The effects help the characters be distinguished. Byron makes sure to let everyone know that this is his band and no one is going to steal the spotlight.

Despite the production flaws, some of this album is good. Some of it makes me laugh aloud. In fact, most of it makes me laugh aloud. As pure entertainment, it’s a great album. After a few beers, this one goes down much easier. I can sit with friends and a laugh at how ridiculous “Naked Steel (The Warrior’s Saga)” or “A Tale from the Deep Dark Woods” sound. “Blood Sakes the Sand at the Circus Maximus” is another great one. It has great orchestration but the marches and flourishes sound like metalified versions of songs from Fantasia or some other Disney animated movie. There is one point where an oboe effect on the keyboard comes in and I swear it’s like listening to a production of Peter and the Wolf. Interestingly enough this song recalls earlier themes in the music and does unify the album in terms of a concept and the storyline.

I could not justify giving this album a higher score because of the shoddy production but it’s great as entertainment. Bal-Sagoth is one of the most original, unique and insane bands out there right now. Trust me, listen to this and you won’t know what to make of it either.

Killing Songs :
Naked Steel (The Warrior’s Saga), Blood Sakes the Sand at the Circus Maximus, A Tale from the Deep Dark Woods
Jay quoted 68 / 100
Crims quoted 85 / 100
Jeff quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Bal-Sagoth that we have reviewed:
Bal-Sagoth - The Power Cosmic reviewed by Kyle and quoted 95 / 100
Bal-Sagoth - The Chthonic Chronicles reviewed by Andrew and quoted 96 / 100
Bal-Sagoth - Atlantis Ascendant reviewed by Danny and quoted 73 / 100
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