Bal-Sagoth “Battle Magic” (1998)

In my opinion (which counts for a lot in some parts of rural Honduras), “Battle Magic” remains the crown jewel of the Bal Sagoth filmography. I say filmography because Bal Sagoth albums are multimedia experiences on par with epic Hollywood film making. Not content to provide mere lyrics, songwriter and vocalist Byron writes ridiculously involved epics complete with chronologies, genealogies, and cosmologies. He crafts concepts too big for any concept album to hold, spinning tales on a cosmic scale: pulpy sagas spanning millions of years and hundreds of galaxies involving alien beings seeding life on earth and then showing up to wipe it out billions of years later. Silly? Yes. But it’s also kind of grand.

The Lovecraftian scale Byron employs can be a bit overwhelming, which is why I like “Battle Magic” so much. “Battle Magic” takes place in historical time, with lyrics about Saxon warriors, seafaring adventurers taking on the Spanish Armada, vampire hunters armed with Japanese swords, and Celtic gladiators fighting for death and glory in the Roman Coliseum. It’s still big, epic, and ridiculous, but the scale is manageable and it’s easier to invest in characters who occupy a real place in history, even if that history extends back to mythical Atlantis. The music reflects historical heroics with simple western melodies, big, bold, and easy, forsaking the sci-fi razzle dazzle of later albums for something a little more down home (relatively speaking).

John Maulding’s keyboard orchestration is big and brash without the dark brooding chords that characterized his previous work with Bal Sagoth, evoking a more percussive Basil Poledouris feeling. Chris Maulding’s guitar lines are more in line with NWOBHM, less grindy and far more melodic than usual. Byron is Byron, alternating between bm screeches and “giant holographic head” voice that narrates the story like Hegel wrote about history: on a grand scale. The feeling is more upbeat and fun, dangerous adventure ala Robert E. Howard minus the lurking elder god paranoia of H.P. Lovecraft. It’s ultimately the fun spirit and historical context that makes “Battle Magic” stand out- it’s truly one of a kind.

-James Slone


Release:  1998
Label:  Cacophonous Records
Avantgenre:  World Historical Metal
Duration:  50:00
Origin:  United Kingdom
Official site:
Review online since:  22.07.2007 / 14:52:03


01. Battle Magic
02. Naked Steel (The Warrior’s Saga)
03. A Tale From The Deep Woods
04. Return To The Praesidium Of Ys
05. Crystal Shards
06. The Dark Liege Of Chaos Is Unleashed At The Ensorcelled Shrine Of A’zura-Kai (The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean Empire Part: II)
07. When Rides The Scion Of The Storms
08. Blood Slakes The Sand At The Circus Maximus
09. Thwarted By The Dark (Blade Of The Vampyre Hunter)
10. And Atlantis Falls…

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