Review: Battlemaster – Greedgripped & Spellspoilt
A natural 20 all the way.
When I look back at the young Bob GK, I get pretty jealous. I spent most of my late teens and early 20’s drifting through college. I barely worked. I regularly slept in past noon. Most of my weekdays were spent on my skateboard, and most of my weekends were spent going to shows. I was pretty fortunate. Within an hours drive of my home was a major college town and a thriving, underground metal scene. And when I say underground, I actually mean UNDERGROUND. A lot of this shit went down in basements. There were rarely cover charges, just donations for the privilege to hang out. BYOB meant getting a 30 rack of Genessee Cream Ale and lugging it down the street a ways knowing the return journey would be a little easier. I swear that beer was so cheap it sold for what amounted to less than 50 cents a can. To this day a lot of my friends won’t touch the stuff. I don’t see what the big deal is. I actually think it tasted pretty decent. Then again I never suffered the consequences of downing more than 4 or 5 of them at a time. Everything in moderation I suppose…
So what does this have to do with Battlemaster? Well what better way to be introduced to a thrashy/blackened/death metal band than to see them play along with 50 other people in a space that really only had standing room for 25? It was dingy, smelly, beer-soaked, and quite frankly a whole lot of fun! It’s kind of crazy to think that they were supporting their first full length album Warthirsting & Winterbound back then. I know they are a little older than me, but here was this band who seemed to land on the scene fully formed, ready to teach you what real metal was in a time when metalcore was at its peak and breakdowns were inescapable. And I say that as a former metalcore fan who loved breakdowns. Battlemaster ripped so fucking hard they magically transported my brain 15 years into the future. Suddenly I understood what thrash metal was all about, and here I am 15 years later jamming on their newest full length, wondering how a band can stay together this long and stay this fucking good.
Greedgripped & Spellspoilt is easily their best album to date, and I say that having revisited their earliest efforts and knowing that it’s not mere nostalgia keeping me invested in this band. Their style is uniquely their own and has been for quite some time. What amazes me is how they constantly hone in on sounding more like themselves. The vocalist, Andy Horn (ex- Cannabis Corpse and temporary live member of Skeletonwitch), maintains his haunting, shrieking vocal style reminiscent of Cradle of Filth, but always in a category of his own. The lyrics read like a satisfying D&D campaign, only you don’t have to coordinate around other people’s schedules and it doesn’t take over a month to complete. The instrumentals have only gotten faster over the years. The guitar solos are face melting, the riffs make you want to run in a circle or perhaps follow Gandalf into the battle of Helm’s Deep.
The whole album, just like the rest of their catalog, reflects an atmosphere of high fantasy and makes you long to have lived in an age of magic and wizards, which unfortunately never existed. The bass is deep and grumbling, bringing a heaviness to the whole record. The drums have incredible fills and cymbal rhythms that never feel overplayed and always push the music forward at a blistering pace. It all works together and nothing ever feels forced. It’s technical, but only just enough to keep things interesting.
If you’re not convinced by now, well then I can’t help you. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a metal fan that can’t on some level appreciate what Battlemaster is doing. While I’m sure they are out there, if you ever meet one I’d encourage you to cut ties immediately. Let’s face it. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. What you do need is this new album when it drops October 21, 2023. And feel free to send me a personal thank you afterwords seeing as how I just introduced you to your new favorite band.
5/5 Smitten Toilets ov Hell
Greedgripped & Spellspoilt releases tomorrow (10/21/23) on Bandcamp.