Realmbuilder - Summon the stone throwers 3.5/5
1. Bow before the oligarchy
2. Silver ziggurat
3. Ninety-nine raids
4. Forgotten minion
5. Summon the stone throwers
6. Colossal glaciers
7. The tarnished crown
Reviewing lots of CDs in a generally similar style can lead a writer up a few creative cul-de-sacs. There’s only so many different adjectives that can be used to describe certain kinds of music, and in particular I’d be almost scared to look back over my previous reviews and count how many times I’ve used variations on the words ‘epic’ and ‘atmosphere’.
But then there are CDs like this where nothing else will do – Realmbuilder’s debut, ‘Summon the stone throwers’ is indeed epic metal that may be short on originality and technicality, but has looming, monolithic atmosphere in spades.
The influences are obvious and the band makes no attempts to hide them – Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, Robert E. Howard – but what is so captivating about it all is the lo-fi execution. Recorded (for the most part) by just 2 men, ‘Summon the stone throwers’ is an extremely minimalist example of the style that throws out rich production and keyboard excesses to focus on the absolute basics of a heavy metal performance – memorable riffs and melodies, and choruses that seek to inspire.
The dry production leaves large gaps between the instruments, with everything bare and open for examination. The conservative use of riffs – each song is only based on a couple – could in the wrong hands lead to dull repetition, but is handled with expert care here. With the CD lasting only 35 minutes, the band don’t waste so much as a note and have arranged each of the songs to a fine point.
The only real extravagance comes from the lead guitar, provided by guest musician Brian Koenig. A million miles from his home in progressive thrashers Luna Mortis, he nevertheless acquits himself very well, his solos exuberant and flashy, yet somehow not clashing with the more simplistic nature of the riffs and in fact knitting into the arrangements quite perfectly.
It has to be said that Czar, who performs the lesser-seen dual role of drummer and vocalist, doesn’t have the strongest of voices. He carries a tune well enough, and his historical and low fantasy-based lyrics are well written, but he lacks any real range and as the focal point for a bare-bones project like this he doesn’t quite have the power needed to give the songs the finish they deserve.
His Bill Ward-inspired drumming is far more satisfying though, again forgoing anything mind-blowing in the technical stakes in favour of spicing the songs up with energetic rolls and fills while at the same time keeping a steadfast beat on the go that keeps everything grounded and marching at a steady pace. He really shows his worth with the tight rhythmic lock he forms with the guitars and bass on the crushing closer “The tarnished crown”, which sends the CD off with a triumphant trumpet fanfare in its closing stages provided by ‘everything else’ man J.H. Halberd.
The influences Realmbuilder draw from the greats of the past are spread through different songs to different degrees. Everything falls under the traditional/doom bracket, but these hints of variation are another deciding factor in keeping the music from stagnating; while songs like “Colossal glaciers” evoke droning trepidation, the aggressive “Ninety-nine raids” almost feels like a Neolithic ancestor to thrash.
A stronger vocalist is the only thing Realmbuilder are really lacking, and they have otherwise set a high marker with this powerful, meticulously constructed debut CD. The daring, back-to-basics style is a more difficult thing to pull off than it would seem, and with no wall of production techniques to hide behind the duo have displayed everything they’ve got to offer front and center, so it’s good job that it’s so satisfactory.
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