Monday, December 11, 2006

Ü2K6: Fifteenth Oblation To A Frosted Force

Monday. Oh, Monday. Monday that always starts off with the lowest low of the week, then bounces up to one of the highest peaks when you get in the groove. Mondays are great days for punch-me-up songs, stuff that gives you energy, gets you moving, prepares you to take on the world...

15. Bal-Sagoth - The Chthonic Chronicles

..and Bal-Sagoth certainly do. Admittedly, their kind of "take on the world" isn't really "show them what you can do, sister!" but instead "UNLEASH THE DEMON HORDES". See, Bal-Sagoth are one hell of a guilty pleasure, an over-the-top sugary sweetness. Bal-Sagoth's albums are always concept albums. And each one has enough text to fill a novel. And each novel is composed of the most over-the-top, cheese-filled fantasy/sci-fi/whatever ever penned. Listening to a Bal-Sagoth album is funny, just because it's hard to believe anyone taking this stuff seriously. In all reality, this should be an album that entire countries run away from. And spoken word bits like "They're coming! They're coming for me! The key! I must find the key!" (from "Six Score And Ten Oblations To A Malefic Avatar") pretty much make it such.

You know what, though?

Cheese is a good thing, in this case. Because Bal-Sagoth concentrate solely on having fun. And in that, they're willing to try anything instrumentally. And that's this album's first saving grace - that in their strange, heroic world, Bal-Sagoth go to the wall and back on instruments, and come up with gems for it. "The Obsidian Crown Unbound" is a good example of this: it swells between building keyboard passages, full power marches, and breakdown-like eddies. By any sane rules of songwriting, this should be either dead, on the cutting room floor, or two to three different songs; Bal-Sagoth keep it together, and the song builds up great momentum for it.

Now, this album is not without its faults. First off, it's really really hard to avoid stabbing yourself in the ear when spoken word sections come up. The singing is a different story: there's a wonderful mastery of rhythm and meter here. The Chthonic Chronicles is easily the type of album that has you singing along to stuff you'd never say or think of yourself. Second, there's some really bad production here: the drums would have had more weight if they miked tin cans and trash can lids; the bassist may have just recorded the sound of him sipping daiquiris at the beach, for all we know, and some of the effects are really terrible (like "The Fallen Kingdoms Of The Abyssal Plain"'s opening, which features a keyboard/trumpet synthesis that sounds like a TV production company's 80s logo soundtrack.)

Still, there's enough here to necessitate repeated listening. Just only buy one, and put it in the same drawer as Man Man. This earns 15 by virtue of its unfettered experimentation: it is its own beast, and an odd one at that, but one with a lot to offer in inspiration.

Buy it here.

Tomorrow: A journey to Yggdrasil.

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