Written by Dungeon Shaker
|Genre||Heavy/Power Metal (Pirate Metal)|
|Release Date||26 April 2019|
A few years ago, I found myself in the great colonial city of Boston. For a history buff like myself, Boston is a treasure trove of early American history. I embarked on a quest to bask in everything the city had to offer. Atop my list of must-see sights along the freedom trail was the world’s oldest active commissioned warship: the USS Constitution. Old Ironsides, as the ship is affectionately known, was one of six heavy frigates commissioned by the US Congress in 1794 and launched from Boston in 1797. Unfortunately, when I arrived full of excitement, I was bummed to find the ship was undergoing repairs in dry dock. I was relegated to admiring Old Ironsides from afar.
Blazon Stone’s fifth full-length release, Hymns of Triumph and Death, was by far my most anticipated release of 2019. The album’s predecessor, 2017’s Down in the Dark, has the distinction of becoming one of my absolute favorite albums. The task of following up such a monumental release is a nigh insurmountable task, one virtually damned from the get-go. The experience I’ve had with Hymns of Triumph and Death has been a similar one to visiting the berthed USS Constitution. The sheer magnitude and glory are right there confronting you, albeit just slightly out of reach.
Hymns of Triumph and Death is a good record; the hallmarks of Running Wild-esque pirate metal are proudly represented. The mastermind behind this year’s ship boarding, Cederick Forsberg –going by the alias Ced– remains one of metal’s undisclosed guitar greats. He returns with an arsenal of riffs and a magazine full of familiar pirate melodies. The cannons are primed and loaded with shot, ready to fire a sonic broadside into the listener’s ear. A broadside that, while tried and true, falls just short of its intended target.
Golden era Running Wild was great simply because Rolf Kasparek mastered the art of writing supremely catchy hooks: a trait shared by Ced. Guitar melodies which evoke the high seas during the golden age of sail and group shouts full of pirate frenzy mark those great Running Wild records as well as Ced’s more recent forays into this sound. Hymns of Triumph and Death fits comfortably within this established niche, it simply lacks the hooks that transcend it from good to great.
The opening salvos of ‘Triumph and Death’ and ‘Heart of Stone’ are indicative of another high-quality release from Ced. ‘Heart of Stone’’s massive chorus, perhaps the highlight of the album, accompanies the very melodic guitar work which made Down in the Dark such a classic. Whereas Down in the Dark delivered classic track after classic track, Hymns of Triumph and Death sinks into a sea of overt familiarity, the kind which plagues revival acts such as Blazon Stone. Tracks such as ‘Dance of the Dead’ and ‘Iron Fist of Rock’ lack the catchy goodness of their kin ‘Down in the Dark’ and ‘Hang, Drawn, and Quartered’. The subsequent tracks are an ever too familiar retread of established traditional heavy metal tropes. Even Ced’s blistering guitar work fails to elevate the album to classic status.
Hymns of Triumph and Death is an album full of good songs; there is nothing inherently bad on it. The formula which made Down in the Dark such a classic is present, as there is much to enjoy on this album. ‘Wavebreakers’ and ‘Howell’s Victory’ do revel in the pirate mania glory of previous Blazon Stone albums. The opportunity to witness the dry-docked USS Constitution remains a treasured memory, but it was evident that she is still primed to sail onto glory. Hymns of Triumph and Death, for me at least, has been a similar phenomenon. She wants to sail off to glory but she is simply still dry-docked.
Dungeon Shaker has been an avid fan of the metal for almost two decades now. A simple journey that began with a cassette of The Black Album, has blossomed into a lifelong obsession. A lover of all genres of metal, collector of vintage (metal) vinyl, and a soon to be historian by trade. Dungeon Shaker runs his own personal blog, thunderousvoices.com, itself a menagerie of heavy metal writing.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Favorite Bands: Blue Oyster Cult, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Tyr, Running Wild, Moonsorrow
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