Battlelore - _Evernight_
(Napalm Records, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (7.5 out of 10)
Let's face it: metal doesn't get any more geeked-out than this (since when is "evernight" a fucking word anyway?). Battlelore cultivate a goth-laced power metal sound with clean female vocals dueling it out with male black metal rasping. To top it all off, the band's lyrics are based entirely around the world(s) of a certain J.R.R. Tolkien, to whom the entire geeked-out, bespectacled fantasy / swords & sandals genre owes both its ethos and its raison d'ĂȘtre.

Epic is the word of the day here. There's nary a note or keyboard wash that doesn't evoke some cosmic battle between good and evil without a trace of irony. Which is fine, because unless you're shooting for Gwar-level tongue in cheek you're better off approaching this with a straight face. Battlelore take it all equally as seriously as, say, Manowar, yet they put more emphasis on songcraft and musicianship rather than relying on the totemic iconography redolent of the kings of metal. And frankly, if they're not shooting for "so bad it's good" status, this is the way to convert guys like me, who are more concerned with stopping the encroachment of another neighborhood Starbucks than daydreaming about vanquishing immortal foes in RPG-inspired, timeless showdowns.

Yes, it's possible to forget the lyrical matter altogether (I did) and approach a work like _Evernight_ on its musical merits, which in this case are largely based in melody and arch, yearning chord progressions. The vocals are fine if lacking in distinction, but the synergy between band members is palpable. Time and again Battlelore segue seamlessly between strident, galloping riffs and epic, sustained interludes that (lengthy centerpiece "Into the New World" aside) demand _Evernight_ be taken as a whole and not reduced to its individual parts.

The band's mastery of loud / quiet dynamics coupled with the crystalline production values make this exquisite headphone metal, although it's tempting to overvalue the end results here: as previously mentioned, the female vocals are fairly generic, and the gruff male vocals have been used to no great effect on any number of recent power-goth albums, making the whole interplay routinely uninspired and more or less obligatory. So yes, some work is required 'ere Battlelore proffer us any certified classics, but _Evernight_ finds them on the right moon-soaked path.

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(article published 11/2/2007)

1/15/2011 A McKay 5 Battlelore - Doombound
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