Review Summary: The harder the world, the fiercer the honour...
Caladan Brood’s Echoes Of Battle
is without a doubt an incredibly ambitious undertaking to say the very least, especially when taking into account the amount of ambition found within the black metal genre as a whole. Caladan Brood have crafted the sort of album meant to be the soundtrack for sword swinging, mead draining warriors, no matter the fact that we live in the modern era in all its lack of need for such. It kinda makes you wish we lived in that time, for only a moment as the lack of technology and comforts will deter even the most stalwart of would-be warriors. Taking a series of literary works as massive, complex, and epic as Steven Erikson’s Malazan series is a serious undertaking, not only in perfectly putting the source material to the right score, but just understanding it enough to conceptualize this project in the first place (Steven Erikson being one of the most complex writers I’ve come across). Caladan Brood have succeeded in every definition of the word. Echoes Of Battle
is beautiful, drawn out, sweeping, triumphant, and above all……effective.
Caladan Brood sit comfortably with the black metal genre, but in a rather unique niche. Buzzing tremolo riffs interspaced with programed background drums, synths, and shrieked vocals set across incredibly long track lengths, as pioneered by the band Summoning before. The production sounds a little cleaner than Summoning’s usual, to the album’s improvement. The fact that the keys and drums are programmed may be a turn off to some, but keep in mind that it’s something of an aesthetic with the genre and somehow fits the music nicely. While Summoning have been doing the style for decades now, albeit set to Tolkien’s works instead of Erikson’s, Caladan Brood’s variant comes off as comfortably familiar to Summoning fans, yet alien enough to not sound like a blatant rip-off. There have been other bands to tackle the genre, yet none have made anything to not only stand up to, but overtake the original innovators. Elffor and Emyn Muil come to mind. Remarkably, Caladan Brood have beat Summoning at their own game. Every moment of this seventy two minute epic flows beautifully and hypnotically, with touches of modern flair and immaculate clean singing that set them apart and ahead of the pack. Six songs with tracks lengths between nine and fifteen minutes each sounds like just an exhausting listen, but Caladan Brood executes them with such grace that it only captivates.
Opening track “City Of Azure Fire” is a slow burning melancholy affair that eases us into the album in excellent form. The synths are one of the most noticeable aspects of the genre and they are overwhelmingly prevalent here. However Caladan Brood lets other pieces of the sound do more of the talking than any of their aforementioned peers. Namely the vocal presence is more up front and the guitars are far less repetitive. The long winded tremolos still guide songs, but cleverly placed guitar solos and riffy change ups show up on occasion to make this a much more varied listen. Without a doubt the most engrossing addition to the album is the use of clean singing. They’re massive, deep, rich, epic, filled with harmonization, and used at perfect moments. Every song has them at one point or another, but when placed across an album as long as this, it feels fresh every time and never overused.
“Wild Autumn Wind”, an obvious highlight, is one of the more melodic pieces. Gorgeous guitar leads and well used clean vocals drive the song, with a blistering guitar solo serving as the climax. “A Voice Born Of Stone And Dust” is probably the biggest change in style here. The synths sound primitive and there is a more aggressive tone to the usual sound. The vocals utilize some catchy lyricism in the chorus, screamed rather than sung. Without a doubt though the highlight of the album is the final track, “Book Of The Fallen”. Opening with roaring clean vocals that sound as though ushered from the lungs of a burly deep mining dwarf, it makes for an immediate attention grabber. A complete and full FIFTEEN minutes of epic black metal ensue, every moment perfectly crafted and emotional, all building up to the massive climax. Clean vocals make a return before giving way to somber keys, and just when you think the song is done…..the singing returns in A capella form to culminate in as massive a climax as this niche of black metal has seen. When it comes to black metal, or epic music in general for that matter, there is no finer moment that comes to my mind.
In truth, I can find no definable flaw with Echoes Of Battle
excepting the obvious Summoning influence. It’s hard to take points off when the students have outdone the masters though. This is an unforgettable album in every sense, an earworm that will stick in your mind, brilliantly rendered in all its epic fantastical magic. If this isn’t the apex of black metal, it’s damn near the top, and you would do well to check it out.