Record Swap: W. Vs. “Masterlord”
Today, the bitter rivalry between second-tier Toilet Trinitarians comes to a head. Will the battle-hardened, soaring chorus-loving “Masterlord” prevail over the former president, or will the wily, tenacious ex-politician reign supreme in the American way? Today’s Record Swap will decide all. The rules are simple. No research. No foreknowledge. No mercy.
W.’s Assignment: Battleroar – Blood of Legends (2014)
Because W. and I share a deep, sexual bond concerning DoomSword, I thought that he would enjoy their spirit-cousins in Battleroar. Also, they fucken rule. – Masterlord.
Knowing the Masterlord’s predilections toward epic, upbeat metal and his puppy-like earnest loyalty toward me, I have to say that I was genuinely excited to jam whatever he’d send me. Then a boring, totally flaccid intro song nearly killed all the fervor I had. Seriously, if you’re going to add an acoustic meandering to kick off your record, keep it short and use it to build hype; Battleroar apparently thought the opposite tactic would be super effective, opening their record with a FOUR MINUTE acoustic introduction that feels twice as long and leaves you desperately hoping the rest of the album isn’t nearly this boring. Not off to a good start, this album.
Thankfully, things pick up with the very first riff in “The Swords Are Drawn.” “Self, you’re in for a swashbuckling good time with a righteous speed/power metal hybrid,” I said to myself (because that’s what I call myself). “Perhaps there will even be some neat folk flourishes and atypical instrumentation to make things even fancier.” Then, disaster struck. This album fell completely flat for me a second time in as many tracks. Battleroar’s lousy singer opened his gob and dragged the whole production down the drain. Look, I like a decent amount of power/trad/speed metal. It isn’t what I usually crave, but if the mood strikes, a powerful, clean-sung chorus can be extremely mighty. Battleroar’s vocalist often sounds the exact opposite of mighty. As this tenor strives for the high notes, he sounds like he’s desperately trying to not laugh at what he thinks is a very clever joke that he just told. Even worse, his low notes sound a lot like Will Ferrell impersonating Robert Goulet. As the first true song drew to a conclusion, I feared I was in for a very long and unpleasant ride through a fantasy battlefield that was less Helm’s Deep and more LARP Championship.
Thankfully, things picked up again on third track “Blood of Legends.” The band managed to slow down the speedy pace, lock-stepping into a more defensive doom march with some truly killer riffs. Even Mr. Goulet’s vocals seemed a bit more tolerable on this song, or at least less distracting. A few well-placed interludes, and one decidedly axe-raising bridge later, and I was definitely starting to feel what Battleroar were putting down.
The hits keep coming over the next several tracks. The band shows that they are certainly not one-trick war ponies, able to stay equally interesting over a variety of song lengths and structures. Although the album itself gets a bit long, the alchemical folk instruments and pagan flourishes add a welcome dose of intrigue to a style that often overstays its welcome over the length of a full release. Try as he might, even Mr. Goulet could not destroy the good will the excellent riffs and vigorous spirit in each song created. When it comes down to it, Blood of Legends is a fun, albeit flawed record. Its valleys are pretty annoying, but its peaks are so good that you’ll definitely want to push through the worst. Don’t believe me? Listen to either “Immortal Chariot” or “Valkyries Above Us” and try not to find yourself grabbing your broadsword and swinging it about wildly. You will fail, just as I did in my attempt to remain jaded throughout this charming album. Recommended listening, for sure. – W.
Masterlord’s Assignment: Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire – Songs of Ill Hope and Despair
Beneath the Masterlord’s shining armor of humorous glee and kitten-like playfulness is a sallow, despondent soul, one that yearns for the sweet oblivion that only obliterating grind can promise. Few bring that annihilation better than Ethan Lee McCarthy, so I hoped that this black hole of aggression and hate would offer my good pal the desolation he so desperately desires. – W.
It is I, The Masterlord! Long have I heard your desperate whining for the dulcet lilt of my dragon quill pen, but do not presume that I deign to capitulate to your plebeian demands. No, I have temporarily paused my relentless quest to compose the dankest of dank dungeon synth so that I may engage in friendly battle with my dear friend W. Enjoy this Record Swap or eat at the everlasting glow of my butt.
I am aware that Record Swap rules prevent me from gleaning any information about this album before reviewing it, but the joke is on you, dear Doubleyou; Songs of Ill Hope and Despair was actually the title of a collection of children’s music my mother published shortly after I was born. So while I had hoped that this record would contain some of the familiar songs of my youth, I was saddened to find that “This is a Song About Disappointment” and “You Are a Worthless Child and Also You Stink” were nowhere to be found. Rats. Regardless, relentless blast beasts immediately warmed my ears not unlike the maelstrom of disparagement that warmed the familial hearth of childhood.
Removed from my realm of black and power metal (though never blackened power metal), “Teeth & Hair” immediately defenestrated this mighty Masterlord. Grind… core?? The fuck is this??? There is nothing regal nor majestic to be found here. Instead, I’m forced to deal with the enraged sounds of what I can only assume are very angry part-time gas station attendants. Were it not for my eternal love for everyone’s favorite ex-president, I would immediately catapult this album into the sun with the sweet new catapult my bride and I constructed over the weekend. Lo, I grit my teeth to endure the rest of Songs of Ill Hope and Despair for my country.
After a series of relentless grinds and blasts, Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire (ugh, c’mon), move into doom territory, starting with “Gold, Frankincense, and Myrh”. It is clear to me that the members of this band are skilled within this realm of music, but after repeated listens, nothing here has struck a chord within the proud heart of the Masterlord. Perhaps I am missing the point of this particular record when I say that, aside from a few dissonant intros, a handful of doom passages, and a fascination with the scatological in song titles, there is nothing particularly memorable about this record.
It pains me to disappoint my dear, sweet W. If nothing else, I have completed this Record Swap in the timely manner he asked of me. -Joe Th-uhhh “Masterlord”