Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Battlerage - True Metal Victory (2011)

Chile is not the first place that comes to mind when one thinks in terms of epic heavy/power metal outfits, but Battlerage seeks fervently to buck that trend, or the lack thereof, with one of the more competent and entertaining releases of its type that I've heard in several months. Now, True Metal Victory is an album that succeeds despite itself. As you can tell, the title and likely lyrical themes are the sort of generic metal banner-waving we've come to expect from the Manowar camp and all who followed it. Admittedly, this is a fraction cheesy, especially in conjunction with Fox-Lin Torres' heavy accent on the vocals, but in the end Battlerage wins out by writing hymns that are aggressive, melodic and memorable.

The closest comparison one will make upon hearing Torres' grumbling, constipated tone would be to Kris Boltendahl of the German legend Grave Digger. When this guy crunches down, his style is almost inseparable, with the exception of the different, yet equally potent accent. But he's also no one- trick pony, attempting some cleaner and higher pitched lines to complement his monstrous, thundering anger. They don't always sound entirely in pitch and he doesn't have the widest range, but he compensates with a lot of character. Musically, the band surrounding him creates a wonderful hybrid of Omen and Manowar dowsed in tinges of German influences like Accept, Grave Digger and Running Wild, and they do it with both flair and drama. The instrumentals like the Omen-ish intro "Battlepath" and the dual doom-melodies of "Stygian" are perfectly placed to divide the vocal anthems, and the production is abrupt, crunchy where it needs to be, and straight in the listener's face. Old school wolves in sleek, modern sheeps' fur.

It's pretty difficult to resist the headbanging madness of "Return of the Axeman" or the muggy, thrashed out parade of "Raw Metal" and "Warlock's Epitaph", even if half the vocal lines do make you feel like cracking up. The leads are generally very catchy, the guitar tone rich and up front, without ever been snuffed out due to the vocals. Battlerage do not bother with symphonic elements: they let the guitars monopolize the melodies while the rhythm section turns in a rock solid foundation. But don't expect frenetic pacing or complexity here circa Gamma Ray or Blind Guardian, these Chileans level the ground with big, muted riffs and simpler structures that fit more accordingly with the bold tales of battle, and metal, and...battle, and more metal. That might sound quite familiar, and in fact there's not a lot here to quality Battlerage as original, especially in the lyrical themes, but True Metal Victory is at least an entertaining rush of fist shaking, axe wielding mayhem that you can sing along to at a party with your friends.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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