BattleroaR (still persisting with the capital R at the end of their name so lets humour them and not spoil things eh?) don’t do anything by half. It amazes me that it’s taken them until their fifth album to get the word Epic into one of their album titles – and even then they add an ‘us’ to make it even more…epic! Greek true/trad heavy metallers BattleroaR are epic in attitude, arrangement and vision. “Codex Epicus” is the next episode in their battle-scarred, warrior-slaying, sword-wielding, shield-smashing, land-conquering ongoing saga.
Even though the band have replaced one guitarist and the drummer, “Codex Epicus” is a good continuation of 2014’s “Blood Of Legends” (expertly summed up at the time on Ave Noctum by my fellow scribe Gizmo), though I’m a little disappointed that the violin present on that release seems to have vanished this time around. Maybe the band felt this angle had run it’s course for them, and this time around there is definitely even more emphasis on the guitar-led Heavy/True Metal of classic Manowar, Virgin Steele and Manilla Road – so much so that MR’s vocalist Mark Shelton takes the lead as a guest on ‘Sword Of The Flame’, giving the track a grizzled world-weary warrior vibe that is interesting.
I personally like it when BattleroaR up the tempo, as they invariably do eventually on most tracks, but they give these forays into Power Metal more impact by basing a track in pounding plodding heaviness. There’s occasional choirs, touches of orchestration (not just confined to the scene-setting intro), but the emphasis is on big guitar riffs, pounding drums and grandiose vocals. Traditional Metal fans will lap this up as they have already been with BattleroaR’s previous releases, but there is plenty to interest the Power Metal patrons of Hammerfall, Iron Fire etc. when that tempo picks up – you’ve just got to wait for it and the anticipation is still enjoyable. The tracks average 7 minutes in length so there is always time for each song to trot on when it wants to. My personal favourite is actually the CD bonus track ‘Stronghold’, which is the albums most urgent track, with a great riff and memorable chorus – not sure why it’s a mere bonus track, but this is probably just another example of my own personal taste.
BattleroaR don’t feel the need to justify their existence. They know their fan-base and they are writing albums to please them. They’re not trying to win new fans with technical trickery, trend-following or flashy arrangements – they have songs called ‘Sword Of The Flame’, ‘Kings Of Old’, ‘Palace Of The Martyrs’ and ‘We Shall Conquer’. And they are called BattleroaR with a capital R at the end. Don’t listen to this album if you just want to tear it to pieces – it’s not for you, it’s for Metal fans who want straight ahead, fantasy-driven escapist Metal, true and honest. If that is what you want, then that is what you will get.
(7/10 Andy Barker)