Spellblast - Battlecry 4.5/5

Reviewed: 8-1-10





Tracklist:

1. Cold wind of death
2. Drinkin' with the gods
3. History of a siege - Heroes
4. Path on the sea
5. Ragnarok (Dream of the end)
6. Soldier's angels
7. Raid day
8. History of a siege - Slaughter
9. Northern star
10. Brave and fierce
11. Command charge
12. Battlecry
13. Swords in the wind (bonus track)


Do you like folky power metal? How about Italian power metal? If you've answered affirmatively to both questions, then Spellblast should be on your short list of bands to check out, if you haven't already. It isn't so easy to find their CDs, given that they were independently released and poorly distributed outside of their homeland. If you can get your grubby metal mitts on them, however, both 2007's 'Horns of silence' and 2010's 'Battlecry' come highly recommended as top-notch exercises in guitar-driven folky power metal at its best. 'Horns of silence' was reviewed at this site shortly after its release, so let's take a closer look at 'Battlecry', shall we?

The foremost musical reference point on 'Battlecry' is Falconer. Of course, Spellblast's vocalist, Jonathan Spagnuolo, is no Mathias Blad (after all, who is?), but many of the riffs penned by guitarists Luca Arzuffi and Claudio Arsuffi have that Stefan Weinerhall quality to them, in that they are majestic, soaring, heavy and folky all at once. Like Falconer at their best, Spellblast demonstrate a keen awareness on 'Battlecry' that speed and power are essential hallmarks to good power metal and must not be forsaken, not matter how folky the music otherwise is. The other important musical reference point on 'Battlecry' is Rhapsody (of Fire), given Spellblast's periodic use of symphonic elements, the clearly Italian vocal style of Spagnuolo, and the band's borrowing of Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Leone on 2 tracks. Where 'Battlecry' bests many Rhapsody CDs is in Spellblast's recognition that the symphonic, non-metal instrumentation should be done tastefully, as an accent, rather than as a dominant musical force, gimmick, or crutch. So these symphonic and non-traditional metal instrumental touches show up from time to time on 'Battlecry', like the violins on "Drinkin' with the gods" or the bagpipes on "Soldiers' angels" or the accordion sounds on "Brave and fierce", without ever becoming too overwhelming or dimming the metallic force of the music. Spellblast integrates these sounds into their music seamlessly, so that nothing feels forced or out of place.

On 'Battlecry', Spellblast demonstrate that they have the full package to be considered among the elites of this style of heavy metal. The songwriting is uniformly excellent and compelling, with the compact, to-the-point songs (12 lean full-length songs clocking in at 44 minutes) being sufficiently varied in tempo and arrangements to maintain the listener's attention, while unquestionably fitting together as the work of the same band. I don't hear any songs on here that are quite as magical as "Lost in the forest" off the 'Horns of silence' release, but the quality level is remarkably consistent here. There are no ballads, no interludes, no boring/dorky spoken word bits, and no filler, just pure, high-quality folky power metal from beginning to end. Singer Spagnuolo is one of the more gifted Italian vocalists I've ever heard. Sure, he shares the heavy accent and high pitch that characterizes many of his countrymen, but his voice is clear, strong, smooth, expressive, laid-back and confident. And for an independently released CD, 'Battlecry' boasts a first-rate production job befitting much larger budget releases. (No wonder, as it was recorded and mixed at famed New Sin Studios under the watchful eyes of noted Italian metal guru Luigi Stefanini.) If you want to nitpick, you could perhaps fault the lyrical content for occasionally butchering the English language (lines like "Only a cold wind of death screams where the blood is spreaded everywhere" or "In my sleeps I can already see the foreign lands"), but who cares? Spellblast's English is way better than my Italian, so I won't ding them for occasional lapses in grammar.

Obviously, folk metal and Italian metal are both niche genres with a limited, specific appeal. It stands to reason that a CD like 'Battlecry' that blends and balances those 2 genres will not be for everybody. But if the idea of a well-executed Italian power metal version of Falconer sounds intriguing to you, or if you enjoy high-quality melodic guitar-based European power metal with folk inflections and excellent vocals, then you owe it to yourself to track down a copy of 'Battlecry'. This CD also comes highly recommended to Elvenking fans, even though I think it far surpasses anything that Aydan & Co. have released. It's a travesty that the larger independent metal labels have not taken notice of Spellblast and signed them to a record contract. Spellblast are easily competitive with anything else coming out in the field of melodic power metal in 2010, and superior to most of the new music I've heard in this style in the last couple of years. They are highly deserving of international attention and acclaim. Give 'em a shot...



KIT




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