“ Artist: Bannerwar / Release Date: 2006 / Genre: Rock „
Bannerwar's traditional black metal strives for an epic sound by incorporating acoustic folk touches of their native Greece, and the gimmick works to some extent. With a minimalist acoustic section bisecting each of these dully-roaring performances, the album is raised significantly above the mildly irritating and generic sound it would otherwise be condemned to, following the D.I.Y. traditions of black metal either by budgetary necessity or choice, and ending up as one of the most treble-heavy and fuzzy releases I've heard outside of demos.
The low sound quality is the key failing of this album, but it's something that can be looked past without much effort. It's widely considered that black metal performed in the traditional style can benefit from the harsh, tombic production sound pioneered by bands like Bathory and embraced by the second wave, but while Behemoth's 'Pandemonic Incantations' suffers from too high a budget, this album could really have done with a more concentrated effort to better achieve the epic sound it often strives for, and to elevate most of it above mere tinny feedback. Even listening to this album on an expensive set of speakers, it would still sound like the noise pollution from someone else's headphones, and as the band list doesn't include a drummer I presume it's a drum machine being used; either way, you can hardly hear it for cymbals.
So while the majorityof the album is rendered uninteresting at worst, and merely unoriginal at best, there are still enough nice touches to make it a worthwhile listen for black metal fans, if only for the pleasant acoustic parts. Opener 'The Return of the Twelve Gods' has a distinct folk edge that passes from its acoustic introduction into Erevos' lead guitar once the song hits its stride, and Arkhon performs the most enjoyable sing-song black metal scream outside of Viking metal, backed up in the chorus by some similarly Viking singing. This style is unfortunately dropped in favour of a more typical black metal direction for the majority of the album until the somewhat epic finale 'White Mountains' and cover of Graveland's 'Ancient Blood,' but the acoustic sections permeate each song in a slightly different manner such as the spoken word in 'Symbols of Solar Might' and 'Warspirit,' the latter of which even allows Vorvoros' bass to become audible, something that's completely impossible elsewhere when the other instruments are all buried in fuzz. Vorvoros also gets to introduce the fun 'Pagan Bane' with a bassline that sounds lifted straight from Jeff Wayne's 'The War of the Worlds,' and acting as the relief in this shorter, sharper and faster nod to the black metal old-school.
I've always wondered whether the band name was supposed to be a sort of a black metal joke version of Manowar, but they don't strike me as the joking type.
1. The Return of the Twelve Gods
2. Symbols of Solar Might
4. Unchaining the Wolf
5. Pagan Bane
6. White Mountains
7. Ancient Blood (Graveland cover)
Track Listings: 1. The Return of the Twelve Gods / 2. Symbols of Solar Might / 3. Warspirit / 4. Unchaining the Wolf / 5. Pagan Bane / 6. White Mountains / 7. Ancient Blood