I am sure I would have eventually paid attention to this band even if it wasn’t for the fantasy aspect. Right? I mean I have been know to let loose with the occasional atmospheric black metal. I enjoy a healthy amount of keyboards with my black metal. It’s not just the fantasy. Come on guys. Stop it. I’m not that one dimensional. Does it help that this band devotes themselves to a complex literary universe? Of course. But does that mean I only care about that minor aspect of the band? I do not know how to answer that. Mother Dark help us all.
Malazan Book of the Fallen is a fantasy series written by Steve Erickson which has the distinction of not only being 10 books long but also relatively popular and cohesive among readers. The series is also unique as it is still somewhat hidden from the mainstream due to its dense and complex network of characters, plot structure, and magic system. Imagine jumping into the deep end of the fantasy pool carrying a large sandbag. The series is often discussed in tandem with Martin’s Song of Ice and fire and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Series. Sorry Wheel of Time, you got weird around book 5. Because of its unique position of being popular yet somewhat obscure, this makes it perfect material to have black metal made around the mythos. I mean, that is what writer’s dream of right? Right?
Caladan Brood is the name of a Utah based atmospheric black metal band who not only take their name from the Malazan series but their lyrics, song titles, and entire reason for existing. Echoes of Battle is the name of the band’s debut and also loud introduction to the metal world. The band makes their music stand among other fantasy metal acts with an above average blend of keyboard atmosphere and shrieking black vocals. Caladan Brood most closely resembles 90’s veterans Summoning in not only sound but also in literary devotion. Because heavy metal already has escapism build into its existence, the choice to model oneself after a fantasy series is an easy recipe for success. At least in my sad, alone on a saturday night eyes.
There are many things the make Echoes of Battle succeed. First and foremost, the synth lines are memorable if not a bit disarming. While vocals and instrumentation can get fierce, things never become too dark with a folky keyboard melody in the back. The whole thing becomes a gallop along a field road with a merry band of banshees. At this slower pace, the choral and rasping vocals of Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword (seriously) become the main draw of interest in every song. The opening moments of the title track are built around the atmosphere of one simple keyboard line. At first, the mixture seems odd but soon the whole near 10 minutes becomes clear in its direction and intent. This is black metal that will take the long road into battle at a pace that is never dull. Why should it rush, I mean, I have all weekend, this case of soda, and book 4 to get through. I am not going anywhere.
While I started this review with the discussion of the Malazan universe, it is important to realize that Caladan Brood is not just for fans of the fantasy series or fantasy in general. If one squints their eyes, tracks like “Wild Autumn Wind” become a lament to the breadth of time and the insignificance of kingdoms and empires in contrast. Of course a knowledge or interest in the back story will, of course, strengthen the listening experience. Really, you do not have to leave because you have no idea who the Bridgeburners are. For the love of god just stay a moment.
Yes it is true, I came for the Malazan connections. It is true I am a fantasy dork who tries to stifle smiles whenever metal is used to orate wondrous storylines. It is true, I could probably walk away from this record satisfied since it hit a lesser known source material than Tolkien or Lovecraft. It’s true that all my jokes have a glimmer of truth which is actually not that depressing rather slightly comforting. The fact that Echoes of Battles, as well as Caladan Brood, is truly unique and has accomplished fantastic things for a debut only makes me stand a little taller while alone on a Saturday night.
Album: Echoes of Battle
Released: February 15th, 2013
Label: Northern Silence Productions
Score: 7/9 Hammers