SONS_OF_BALAUR_GF_VINYL.inddUnless you are part of the pathetic human sheep herd, you will be aware of how this is real black metal, the one true cult that never dies. The musical face of the true believers who work to resurrect our lord, and that Balaur well soon lay this world to waste! We shall stand by his side, Sons of Balaur! Death to all!

Except the Sons Of Balaur don’t exist.

Except of course they do because there’s this album here, but the band is fictional. Although, to be frank even in their fictional world they barely exist.

Context.. Yeah, Giz, context. OK, Sons Of Balaur are a fictional Norwegian fanatical cultist black metal band from the pages of the graphic novel Realm Of The Damned. This comic is a violent, gore soaked, expletive riddled horror tale set in this world but where vampires effectively rule and an ancient, distinctly bitter and aggressive Van Helsing who is more tramp with SAS training than genteel Peter Cushing, continues to object. There is a strong streak of thick black humour in the tale and dare I say it a seemingly genuine knowledge and love of black metal and its turbulent history. There’s a few cute cameos and nods to icons and it begins with…ah, effectively I guess a band disagreement that isn’t quite musical differences and is in a very familiar setting. Oh, have a read; with striking, thickly inked artwork and an cynical dialogue style, albeit an occasionally obtuse story telling technique, it’s a stylish, fun, riotous steel toe-capped boot of a comic, intent on world domination (there’s the comic, this CD and an animated film coming soon…)

I guess all the trve kvlt only bm fans have already left with toes painfully curled and stomachs in spasms just at the thought.

So, for the rest of us: There is this album and its anonymous musicians.

I guess you could call it a manifesto for the band rather than a concept album detailing the story. Most importantly though, is it any good and can you enjoy it without the graphic novel? Or is it more cack handed idiots ruining our beloved genres with ignorant half assed imitation?

Well firstly look at the label involved. Yeah. Then the first track drops and is a bit of a jaw dropper, a shocker in fact. It’s damned authentic, full tilt Slegest/Cursed 13 style loose, raw black ‘n’ roll. Feral and catchy it’s really good. Really. So preconceptions of some Lordi style fakery utterly shattered, we drift through a wordy ‘Prologue’ into ‘Old Relics’ which begins with an old Cradle Of Filth-ish vibe before plunging into real Norwegian style and breaks into a viking/pagan metal hook riddled chorus to die for. Whoever these guys are they know their shit. It’s great, really great. Shockingly, straight faced straight played great. I am beginning to suspect that these guys are ‘known’ and their real identities currently remain under wraps not just for ‘authenticity with the comic’ but because the aforementioned kvlt crowd might not ‘approve’. Ah well, these things always come out in the end. Regardless, they’ve done a grand job.

‘Succubus Slut’ is a fairly straightforward bit of blackened death with a Norwegian slant, but ‘The Curse Of Bloodlust’ is simply great, melancholic, melodic but still ripping black metal. I mean, shit, there’s an almost Sargeist feel there until the delicate fade out which Sargeist wouldn’t touch with a bargepole (it’s still good though.)

Which brings me to the oddity here. Despite the surprising quality, there is sometimes a feel that there’s three different bands here. There’s the black metal band with a liking for the odd touch of black ‘n’ roll, the melodic, catchy but heavy blackened pagan metal band and the blackened death metal band in a kind of Behemoth vein at times. It’s not entirely fractured, and if nothing else the slide between the styles keeps this varied and interesting. When you place the black metal gallop of ‘Van Helsing Must Die’ next to the doomy blackened death of ‘Balaur’s Rise’ or the almost blackened Amon Amarth of ‘Soldiers Of Darkness’ it is most striking, but at other times more gentle.

Frankly though when you have songs like the spot on Sargeist meets gothic romance sound of the fantastic ‘Athena Bitch Betrayer’ who cares.

This is genuinely hard to review. Part of me wanted to hate it. That part rails against the commercialisation of something I love and the blatant fakery. The other part of me, the one that adores stories and tales and comics in particular and has loved its use in metal for forty years tells me to get over myself, to remove the stick up my arse, get over my hip bone and just revel in it.

If there was no comic involved, no film, and this was just a bm/dm supergroup and a concept album what would I say?

*Cough* The truth is, looking at it like that, in that context, I have to say that this is, the new Winterfylleth album and the debut RID EP apart, one of the best, most enthusiastic and goddamned seriously enjoyable black metal albums I’ve heard this year. Sorry.


(9/10 Gizmo)