Review Summary: Strap on your shields and raise your banners.
Echoes of Battle is an album that is simply glowing with beauty and power. While it's innovative in its concept, I won't lie and say it's entirely innovative in its sound. As you will hear almost too many times, yes, it sounds a lot like Summoning. However it expands on the sound does it in an even better way than Summoning could. The clean choruses are magnificent and epic, sounding like the soundtrack to a war laden kingdom. They are used often but remain invigorated each time, probably due to how long and, to an extent, winding the tracks are. The shortest track is still hovering around 9 minutes, so that might be an immediate turn off, but they are justified very well. The slow burning melancholy present in there music only lures you in more rather than lulls. This is due to the harmonious harps, piano, and various other instruments in addition to the atmosphere driven by the tremolo riffs, although there are a few spine chilling solos, such as on "Voice Born of Stone and Dust". Still, I will be damned if I didn't say this is one of the few black metal albums that I can say is "beautiful".
In addition to this the vocals possess an incredibly emotionally driven shriek, which only serves to create the perfect contrast between the harsh, slightly strained vocals and the anthemic choral parts. In both cases it's incredibly passionate and both the band and the listener feel immersed in the works of Erikson. Although I can't say much for myself about Eriksons works of the Malazan series, they are generally regarded as the most complex and intriguing among any fantasy series, so i'd still be damned if this doesn't do them justice. The lyrics are glorious and triumphant, especially on the end track "Book of the Fallen". "Siege weapons tolling out like thunder, ripping the city walls asunder. Columns of flames reach ever skyward, horizons filled with burning pyres." The band paints the image of destruction and war flawlessly, making the album not only musically impressive, but an actual work of art.
The closest thing to a potential flaw in this album would be that the drums and synthesizers are both programmed. However even this is very forgivable, considering the following-1) there are only two members, and 2) it's simply something black metal does. Take an album like "Hlidskjalf" by Burzum. It was made from a jail cell using only his computer and electronic effects. Considering how both the synthesizers and drums are done well and only add to the atmosphere, it feels like less of a flaw and more of an aesthetic than anything.
The entire album is a fantastical journey, one of clashing chain mail and swords and immense fields of ancient war. Yes, again, it borrows immensely from Summoning. But is that really so wrong when the student has painted a masterpiece even the teacher would marvel? It is not. Few bands can be as simple yet as astonishing as Caladan Brood, and while it's impossible to say if they will be the ushers to the new age of atmospheric black metal, no band could better lead the reigns.