Looking for stellar Atmospheric Black Metal? An epic battle of forces unknown? Morowind on steroids? The 2013 début album Echoes of Battle of the startup Caladan Brood cuts you right down the middle, chews you up and spits you out again. Straight into the grand Epic Atmospheric Black Metal landscape they portray, mixed into this is here black magic potion.
Okay, you purists, admitted! They cruise (very, very) dangerously close to the abominable crime of copycat, sounding like Summoning in a way that is – almost exactly like them. And they indeed take the typically Chinese art of plagiarism a little far. Just look at the logo and be amazed.
So – everyone – if you wanna compare Echoes of Battle of Caladan Brood with someone, I would suggest Elderwind. I found the style to be much closer. Perhaps with a touch of Moonsorrow at times. But even this is a dicey comparison that does not hold its water very well. See what I am getting at? It is extremely difficult not to sound similar to each other in a genre that is so friggin’ crowded with players and dominated by few.
But this stuff Caladan Brood are presenting is much more powerful than Summoning could ever produce. Compared to Echoes of Battle, the sound of Summoning feels like kids on plastic chairs, playing with plasticky toys, drinking from pink little plastic cups. Sorry, you mighty fans of the latter, but ’tis my opinion.
And all this commotion created by a band of two, staffed by Mortal Sword and Shield Anvil – the two fearless steeds running this new gig called ‘Caladan Brood’. But you know what? I really don’t care if they did copy, ’cause they took this one step farther, knocked it up a notch. And their marketing gag to keep everyone in the dark about their identity appeals to me – I was and still am laughing my head off. But then again, this is typical of the genre not to be too visible.
What really reduced me to a heap of helpless mirth is that this band hails from Salt Lake City – of all places. Nothing wrong with the location (it is very nice there), but this is the global home of the brave, the realm of the mighty Mormon Church worshiping to their nailed god. And those guys do not wish to see friggin’ heretics in their midst. Possibly Satanist heretics to boot. Nobody is ready to turn the other cheek in that community. And especially not in the holier-than-thou US of A., the land of epic double standards.
Echoes of Battle is heavy fare, but never boring and surprises around every corner. And it better be: With tracks around 10-15 minutes, this needs to be full of nooks and crannies or you will fall into a coma for sake of hearing the same stuff all over. Now fortunately, this is not the case, but more to that later.
The style is said to be on the Black Metal side, but there is a refreshing mix of different tastes and flavors in there – Death Metal, Heavy Metal, Symphonic type Metal elements and loads of folksy passages. In essence the Black Metal is overwhelmingly present. Tremolo picking, heavy distortion, raspy, high pitched lyrics, you name it. On the other hand, the inclusion of a few stellar riffs is most surprising in a Black Metal production.
Also, mastering to switch from one instrumental direction to the other is just amazing and most professionally executed. That said, Caladan Brood managed to tune the synthesizers and drum machines quite decently, so that you actually do not get this plastic synthesized sound that sometimes is over-apparent with some. All of the above combined, with the raspy growls and clear voice passages renders this mix of wonders irresistibly alluring.
You can actually just feel the landscape emerge around you when listening to this music. Full of trolls, goblins and other mystical creatures (actually you have a goblin screeching at you already…). But what landscape? Echoes of Battle is a concept album said to bring the Malazan Books of the Fallen (by Erikson) alive. And they succeed quite beautifully. Every track impersonating a part of the story it seems.
When starting on Echoes of Battle with the intro hitting me with harp sounds, I went – ‘Oh boy, here we go again!’ – just to be pleasantly surprised. The harp transforms City of Azure Fire into something mystical already, then it keeps going – with a few archaic instruments. And bang, the bass goes and this really takes off with some substance – the growls rasping away at you. This interspersed with some clean vocals, almost giving this a Death Metal connotation. I like it.
Echoes of Battle (the title song) then follows. Very epic this one, battle sounds and all. I do like the intermezzo in the middle, which then is taken in directly by the full monty of combined instruments. But the filet piece is indeed Wild Autumn Wind. What a hammer song, complete with a very unusual Heavy Metal style riff in the middle. This one had me enthralled from the beginning. Otherwise remarkable are To Walk the Ashes of Dead Empires and Book of the Fallen.
Compression is sometimes an issue in Echoes of Battle, but otherwise this album is very well produced, mixed and mastered. Never at any time are we losing any important element of the tune. Towards the end of the record, however, the quality of synths are getting worse, more old style MIDI sounds there than before. A pity, really.
Looks like two game playing, book reading fantasy geeks have pulled off a masterpiece with Echoes of Battle in the music department. And in a decidedly difficult and overcrowded genre to boot. It is an epic piece of work, mostly in the Black Metal domain. I just hope that Caladan Brood will be able to build on this and not become the victims of their success. What a succulent piece of work. I wish them luck and can only recommend this album. Buy without moderation.
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