I love SpellBlast. Their first album, 2007's Horns Of Silence, was a spectacular blend of epic power metal and folk metal, kinda like Blind Guardian meets Falconer. For a debut in particular it was an astounding album that should have cemented this band's place near the top of the Italian power metal pantheon. So it is with great glee that I put this album on to review.
You know what? They gone and done it again! Battlecry is another fine slice of power metal pie with its heart stuck firmly in the fantasy realms where dragons roam free and fair maidens are constantly in need of rescuing by heroic chaps in highly polished silver armour.
An Italian band playing folky power metal is obviously going to be compared to the wonderful Elvenking, particularly with their singer appearing on SpellBlast's debut. However, SpellBlast's take on this style is rather different, owing more to Blind Guardian's style of power metal. There is a lot of folk influence in all of the songs on this album but each and every bit is integrated perfectly into the metal foundations of the song, which include precision double bass drumming and excellent guitar work.
Vocals on the album are gifted to us by Jonathan Spagnuolo, a man surely destined to become recognized as one of the finest power metal singers. His voice is exceptionally clear with only the faintest traces of accent that is the usual plague of Mediterranean bands. He delivers a wonderfully passionate performance whether the song is fast or slow. He even displays a bit of Hansi Kürsch-style grit occasionally!
As on their first album, SpellBlast have some high profile guest musicians appearing on Battlecry; the Italian band Folkstone, who provide the bagpipes, and none other than the fabulous Rhapsody Of Fire singer Fabio Lione! These guests provide a great extra dimension to SpellBlast's music but, unlike in other band's albums, never dominate proceedings.
Unlike a lot of power metal albums Battlecry features no extraordinary epics. In fact, the average length of the songs is around the three to four minute mark. Despite this all the instruments have time to shine and none of the songs ever seem boring. The band have taken the skill they displayed on their debut with writing songs of just the right length. If a song is perfect at two and a half minutes then that's how long it will be! No filler. No over-long, pointless crap (Iron Maiden take note), just quality throughout. The album is twelve songs long and overall is about the right length to keep the listener interested and more importantly enjoying it so much that its hard to not just press play again and listen to the whole thing over and over!
Horns of Silence had artwork with a real mystical quality to it that truly reflected the music. The Battlecry artwork is good, but more aggressive, reflecting the slight change in the band's sound which is also more aggressive than on their debut. There is none of the playfulness that appeared in songs like Goblins' Song for example. This is not a bad thing though. The new album seems more focussed and is just as enjoyable as the first!
A few months ago I claimed that Orden Ogan's excellent Easton Hope album could be the best power metal album this year. My apologies to the Ogan boys, they've just been outclassed! SpellBlast's sophomore album is one that should be in the collection of any and all fans of power metal. I hope they return to the UK for a live show soon!