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Battlelore - Evernight
CD Reviews
Written by C   
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
Battlelore - CD Review
Evernight

CD Info
2007
Napalm Records
9 Tracks
English lyrics


Establishing themselves as the premier band for the unique brand that is known as Tolkien metal, Battlelore opens a new musical path by way of old means. Taking the fictional stories of Middle-Earth and making them real through their music, Battlelore revels in the philosophy that music should always be an escape from the mundane complexities of everyday life.

Over the last several years, Battlelore established their own reputation while fellow Finnish bands were catapulting (and in the case of some, disintegrating) into the galaxy of mainstream success. Like the tortoise that finishes the race, Battlelore may not have the worldwide success of Finnish counterparts such as Stratovarius or Nightwish, but they have proven without doubt that they can carve out a niche for themselves.

After two albums and a DVD, Battlelore experienced some lineup changes over the last few years and took this new group of "Uruk-Hai warriors" to the studio to make the 2005 album, Third Age of the Sun. Not even a year and a half later, the band would announce in late 2006 that they were laying down tracks for a brand new album, the name of which would be revealed just a few short months later as being called Evernight. The band laid their assault on the legendary Finnvox studios in Finland and prepared for battle once again on the fields of the metal world.

Showing their prowess on such a battle field, Battlelore emerged triumphantly at the beginning of 2007 not only with a new album among their horde of weapons, but also a spot at the Female Metal Voices Fest later this year. Their first opportunity to unleash their new musical weapons onstage will come in February 2007, at the Finnish Metal Expo, showing that indeed they are seasoned warriors ready to duel! But Battlelore’s onslaught of musical bombast would not be limited to Europe; this time they would find an audience of fellow warriors overseas, with releases due in March for North America. So with all of that, how does the power of Evernight compare with the past recanting of Tolkien’s tales?

Gentle guitar work opens up the first track, "House of Heroes". Then, a pause, and the entire band comes in prominently. Kaisa’s beautiful vocals step in a moment later, the guttural vocals of Tomi following shortly after. Lovely piano work, lilting orchestral work and strong guitars hold up this song. Another short break towards the middle, with nothing more than rhythmic drum work and light guitar riffs, and then Tomi comes back with his vocal. Kaisa comes back again for the chorus, and then the song closes.

A smooth transition into the second track takes us to the more bombastic "Ocean’s Elysium". Kaisa’s voice is a little stronger on this song, singing in higher pitch. Maria’s flute work gives us that feel that we are by the sea. Tomi’s voice is not too far behind, then the guitars become more aggressive as Kaisa makes her return, almost matching the visual of churning waves. Then the music becomes mellow again, as if it were a calm, rolling ocean. A short instrumental break, then a segue way into a nice riff before the band jumps in a little faster with Kaisa and Tomi at the hilt. Another ripping guitar part, then the cymbals herald the end of the song.

A similar intro takes us once again into "Summon the Wolves". It is fast-paced, Tomi’s vocal giving this eerie intro some extra darkness. Then the music softens and Kaisa sings in her gentle, reassuring way, a stark contrast to Tomi’s lightning-fast part. The fast music starts up again, bringing Tomi back with his agonized vocal. An extra-long pained scream brings in the solo, with another of these screams in the middle. Another Tomi vocal, and then some nice drumming, further complimenting the dark feel of the song. Some more guitars, and then Kaisa comes back again, telling of how the wolves roam at night. Tomi returns again, scary as ever. The song ends on his scream and two emphatic drum beats. Although this song features Tomi a little more on vocals, and I am not entirely crazy about the growly voice, this song still ranks as my favorite musically.

Faint, yet fast guitar intros the entire band and another explosive beginning. Tomi’s voice starts off the fourth track, "We Are the Legions". Kaisa’s voice is a little more deadpan here at first, her voice building momentum as the music swells, and then dipping back down again, and back up. Angry guitar riffs return as well as Tomi’s equally antagonistic vocal. The song makes another switch from one extreme to another when Kaisa comes back again with the same soft but strong vocal part. A moment where the guitar comes in alone with a couple of complementing drum parts, and then Tomi sings again. This time he lets out another tortured scream, and the band kicks into fast jamming, with Tomi’s voice leading the way. A drum roll closes out Tomi’s final scream, and the end of the song.

There seems to be a pattern establishing here, as the end of each song seems to sound like the beginning of another. This is carried further into the fifth track, "Into the New World". Some heavy yet slow guitar and drum parts come in a little bit later, giving a nice groove to this track. Then some fast riffing builds up to bring in Kaisa’s voice as she sings of unknown lands. Tomi jumps in a moment later, and then a trade-off to Kaisa once again. The dark orchestral work coupled with fast riffs filter between Kaisa’s verses. Her voice, heard slightly more on this track, ushers the way to a nice guitar and piano part in the middle. It is also her voice that is heard again when we reach the other end of this nice musical part. Tomi is never far away, though, for he comes back in a little while later just when we are used to the reprieve that Kaisa’s voice brings, reminding us that this is Middle-Earth and we can’t spend all our lives relaxing in Rivendell! Some more thunderous drum work, and then Tomi’s voice declaring, "this is the end!" It isn’t really, though, because the song goes on just a little longer. He declares finality in the last line, and then the song comes to its end.

Mystical drum beats pound us into the sixth track, "Longing Horizon". Kaisa’s voice takes on an earthly, ancient feel of a storyteller, as she sings of life near the sea. Her gentle vocal of "I must move on" brings in Tomi, and the music, taking a more assertive turn. The drum work comes in again, taking us back to Kaisa and her tales. The music becomes heavier again, but Kaisa is still with us vocally as she poignantly sings of her wish for something more. An instrumental part comes in after that, and the chorus again. "How much longer until my flame fades?" Kaisa sings passionately of the Elvish plight of immortal life. Her pleading voice takes us to the song’s end, where the end of one song once again transcends us into another…

"Mask of Flies", the seventh track, starts slow and then breaks out into all-out jamming and Kaisa’s voice. Tomi’s whispers are heard shortly after, and then his voice bursts into a scream. Kaisa holds up his wayward vocal with her steady, gentle voice, and they trade off again. Gritty guitar work and commanding drums take the two vocalists to the bridge, where Kaisa chants while Tomi’s screams are interspersed. The music slows, and Kaisa sings mournfully of being weak and unable to fight. Some warped guitar riffs take us back to Tomi’s voice and heavier riffs. When Kaisa comes back again, her voice is stronger too, blending in to the forceful music. Tomi once again throws his screams over her voice, and the song ends shortly after.

Heavy guitars leading to light pianos and Kaisa’s voice take us through the journey that is track eight, "The Cloak and the Dagger". Tomi’s voice is especially belligerent on this track, if anyone wasn’t sure if he was doing true screams before, there’s no doubt of it now! He really lets it all out on this track. Steady drumming and equally catchy flutes that will make for a great clap-along at live shows bridge between Kaisa’s and Tomi’s interchanging vocal parts. Some nice crunchy guitar riffs in the middle of the song as well. Tomi comes back after the instrumental break with not as crazy screaming, but his final scream at the end of a verse punctuates a moment of silence within the song, heralding back an even heavier return of the entire band. Kaisa’s voice comes back, and then the instrumental break takes us to the end.

The final track, "Beneath the Waves", is fast on its toes, pulling us through the world of Tolkien at breakneck speed. Chanting voices of both Tomi and Kaisa are heard, giving a sort of creepy vibe to the two voices. There is some very nice heavy guitar work here before Tomi jumps in. His lengthened scream calls Kaisa in, her voice strong and clear. Then there is a gentle break, a moment of relief with nothing more than flutes, before the drums crash in. There is a little more of this shift in musical mood, all the while Tomi’s whispers holding steady, before his screaming vocal breaks through and winds through the grandiose band jam again. Some more vocals, then some lovely acoustic guitar after all of that. Then once more, the aggressive drumming and heavy riffing bring us back to the dulcet tones of Kaisa’s voice. The song mellows out yet again, Kaisa’s vocal also a little more relaxed. Some layered Kaisa vocals, one in a chant longing to "sail away", another singing the verses, then her voice sings the song’s title, taking it and the album to its conclusion.

Overall opinion: As usual, Battlelore grabs your hand and takes you to the musical landscape of Tolkien’s world, their lyrics of loves lost and battles won leaving us free to run wild with our imaginations, their songs coming to life before the vision of the listener, just as Tolkien once described Elvish songs, the way that homage to Tolkien should be. Songs like "Summon the Wolves" take us to a dark, frightful world where enemies are constantly in pursuit and places of respite and repose are few, far-between, and short-lived. Other songs like "Beneath the Waves", "Longing Horizon", and "Ocean’s Elysium" show us the world of the Elves, their yearning for a distant homeland across a vast sea, the path of which is unseen to them until they take their final ship from Middle-Earth. Yet other songs, such as "House of Heroes" show us another myriad to the vast prism of diversity within Middle-Earth, invoking visuals of dimly lit halls of warrior men toasting to a victory well earned. Yet, through all these different tales, Battlelore weaves them all together with their thematic music, each song threading into the other to complete the complex fabric that Professor Tolkien fashioned nearly a century ago. This is a nice follow-up to Third Age of the Sun, and the fact that there are a few less songs on this album than the last one may make this a better accompaniment to those new to Battlelore’s music; there is not so much Tolkien lore to digest like with the previous album, and as a result, perhaps your journey through the hills of the Shire and the shores of the Grey Havens is not so overwhelming. There is not much a radical change of sound within Battlelore’s music from time to time, so if you are a longtime fan, there is assurance that Battlelore’s same talent at storytelling stands. Kaisa’s singing is still sweet and hauntingly innocent as ever, and Tomi has proven that though he was a replacement singer, he has infused himself within the band full throttle and has made a place for himself within the music of Battlelore as well. They are not experimenting with new instrumentation or dabbling with more modern means such as songs crafted for radio airplay, but it doesn’t make their new music any less exciting to listen to. Some bands are just fine doing what they know best, and Battlelore has definitely honed their craft over the years. Perhaps it is this endearing quality that has kept them enough in the metal scene to gain a devoted audience, but low enough under the radar not to succumb to the very earthly temptations that other metal bands often suffer (in short, not having to compromise the music for greater success!). Evernight is further proof of their ongoing ability to bring the often complex stories of Tolkien to life in a manner that even someone who is not a fan of his works can possibly appreciate, and finding their way into the hearts of folk metal fans all the same.

7/10

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