Bal-Sagoth
Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne


4.5
superb

Review

by hyperi0n STAFF
July 14th, 2010 | 21 replies | 6,594 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist


Perhaps the most difficult and most important decision any band can make during their career is this: stick to their guns and continue putting out music similar to that of their early days, pleasing old fans at the risk of not gaining new listeners, or attempt to experiment and try a different angle of composition at the risk of displeasing their original fans and audience. Many musicians opt to go with the red pill, choosing to experiment with their ideas, broadening their horizons and trying something new. And let's be honest here, putting out the same album for ten plus years would be incredibly boring and most likely breed a displeasing repertoire of half-assed musical endeavors and uninspired albums. However, many bands have been quite successful (in terms of critical acclaim, not commercial success) with a controlled musical evolution, never forgetting where they came from but always adding something new. However, very rarely is it seen for a band to take a very similar idea over many albums and draw it out, and actually breed successful and interesting records. Bal-Sagoth is one of those bands, and Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule marks the creation of the sound that will follow them all the way through their latest musical effort.

Bal-Sagoth's debut, A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria, was somewhat of a flawed gem, showing great potential and often times displaying it wonderfully, but in some places, seeming forced and placing certain elements where they ought not to be. Starfire rids Bal-Sagoth of all creative hitches and succeeds in creating a seamless album that knows exactly where it's headed and doesn’t diverge for any reason. Retaining the same lineup as the former album, with Jonny and Chris Maulding heading the musical direction and Byron Roberts handling the vocals and lyrics, Starfire realizes so much of the potential shown on A Black Moon. Losing most of the death metal influences so prevalent in A Black Moon, Starfire attempts to craft a greater atmosphere and a larger soundscape in which each member can explore the limits of their instruments. This is perhaps the album that warrants the broad definition of Bal-Sagoth being referred to as symphonic black metal, for Starfire is much more influenced by the black metal sound than the previous effort. However, more prevalent than even the obvious black metal influences are the epic sounds of an ancient mythological world that define Bal-Sagoth's work.

Among the slick, well-executed lines of tremolo picked riffs and dark guitar lines rides the keyboard compositions that launch the sound into another niche altogether. Starfire brings to the very forefront the use of keyboard melodies, increasing the weight of the atmosphere and perfectly embodying the vision set forth in the inclusion of tales of the world's ancient history. From synthesized strings to full brass orchestras, the full realization of the keyboard in Bal-Sagoth's music gives it the ability to stand out from the rest of keyboard laden music. The triumph though lies not in the ability of each instrument to sound good, but the perfect meshing of each sound to create the full sonic functionality. Bal-Sagoth proves that metal is the only medium through which the ancient Atlanteans would have wanted their sagas retold. Byron Roberts returns again with his tales of legends past, and, while almost completely dropping the death grunt used before and relying heavily on his high pitched rasp and deep, narration worthy voice, delivers once again with both lyrical and vocal strength.

However, don't let the stigma of a slight power metal influence stray fans of extreme metal away from the newly realized sound. While not quite as dark and gritty as their last effort, Starfire epitomizes Bal-Sagoth ability to not sugar coat an idea. The melodies are dark and foreboding as they are epic and battle ready. Unlike most power metal, which seems to dwell on shining stories of untouched warriors and battlefields bereft of death and pain, Bal-Sagoth captures the atmosphere of a war-torn society, complemented by the heavy and crushing guitars and dark story. The riffs, both on keyboards and guitar, are memorable and interesting, never slowing down to an honorable crawl and still as fierce as ever and as unrelenting as a swirling metal storm. Each instrument is executed with perfection and the production is clean and crisp with just a tinge of grit needed for a concept of such deep and focused direction.

Bal-Sagoth crafts their magnum opus with Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule and perfects the ideas they've held since day one. While proving they hold a unique niche in the musical world they still manage to create an album that is both accessible and fun while balancing a heavy and furious atmosphere with darker overtones. The only question left behind after an album like this, as with any album deemed a band's best work is, where will they go from here? Starfire itself seems to give a pretty good indication of what path that will be.



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user ratings (43)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2010



18343 Comments


I said to myself i'd do all of Bal-Sagoth's albums, as they are without reviews on this site, but it's going to get difficult after this one. Still, comments and suggestions always welcome.

Digging: Shed - Shot Selection

SpectralArchitect
July 14th 2010



68 Comments


just started listening to a few songs, not bad although the narration is kinda irritating...

illmitch
July 14th 2010



5429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this was always my fave album of theirs back in the day

do yourself a favor and dont review their discography

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2010



18343 Comments


Well, i want them to have reviews on this site, but, like both you and i said, it's going to be hard as hell because pretty much every album after this one until The Chthonic Chronicles is the same formula. Either you like that formula or you don't...

Gnominator
March 29th 2011



41 Comments


There's no question that this is Bal-Sagoth's best album of all. Every song is beautifully crafted and super catchy. 5/5

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 29th 2011



18343 Comments


I found an original release of this and Battle Magic in a record shop in Raleigh about a week ago. Sadly no one on sputnik was able to celebrate with me.

FatChickIrl
March 29th 2011



4096 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cool to see a review for this, I havent lisened to this band in forever tho

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 29th 2011



18343 Comments


I was going to review their entire discog, and decided against it for fear of all the reviews being awful.

FatChickIrl
March 29th 2011



4096 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Do it man, seriously do it, you cant ever get better at reviewing if you never try

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 29th 2011



18343 Comments


Well essentially once you hear this you've heard all of their albums, as i said in the review. I really like them all, but i'm pretty sure each review would say the exact same thing.

fulgrim
December 23rd 2011



1542 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

got to love the song names.

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
January 4th 2012



18343 Comments


jammed this hard today

so fucking good

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
April 7th 2012



18343 Comments


best album ever made

Motiv3
April 7th 2012



8923 Comments


how long do they want to make their song titles hahaha

Digging: Punch - They Don?t Have To Believe

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
April 7th 2012



18343 Comments


i mean byron is telling you a whole story so idk

ANJ45
June 7th 2012



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just got into this band, album slays. pos

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
December 12th 2012



18343 Comments


ill never not love this album

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
January 21st 2013



18343 Comments


its a 5 glory to the emperor

Zyhaal
March 30th 2013



193 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

one of my fav bands, album rapes

Keyblade
April 29th 2013



14721 Comments


for a band that's signed to nuclear blast, these guys are really overlooked dam

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