I’m not sure I’ve made it clear during my vainglorious tenure at Angry Metal Guy Web Industries, but I love me some Immortal. I also tend to appreciate bands that shamelessly mimic Immortal (see Byfrost) because, I really love Immortal and they don’t release twelve albums a year as they should. Therefore, if one follows the logic chain I’m forging, I’m literally forced to love Balfor. These Ukrainian black thrashers are fully onboard the Immortal party bus and their sophomore release Barbaric Blood is a shameless theft of all things Abbath and it’s pretty good to boot (available via Pulverised Records). Making it all the more interesting is the occasional inclusion of some vintage In Flames style guitar shreddery and melodic wankery. Yep, the boys have some chops and when paired with some nifty songwriting and a flair for the dramatic, this becomes one of the better slices of blackened thrash nobody heard this year. So, should you try hearing it? Well, ask yourself this. Are you morbid? Wait, wrong question. Are you into Immortal?
Balfor really excels at mining the Immortal sound for their own twisted purposes. It quickly becomes apparent they shamelessly looted the Immortal discography for useful riff structures and Abbath’s vocal cords for that matter (yes, Thorgeir Berserk sounds an awful lot like Lord Abbath). With all pretense of originality thus abandoned, Balfor proceeds to thrash it up nicely with speedy barn burners like “Behold My Hate!” (love those battle horns in the background) and “Pure Barbaric” (so Immortal, they may litigate). The surprise comes with tracks like “In a Thunder of Ancient Glory” where the Immortal-isms are broken up by Gothenburg melo-death leads and solos of high quality (check out the fretting at 2:45). Tracks like “Shadow of My Raven Wings” and “Light’s Demise” are strewn with razor-sharp riffs and trem-abuse and there’s a healthy dose of blast beating around every darkened corner. Other moments of interest include the slightly off-kilter riffing and epic vibe in “Kingdom’s Blood” and the surprising clean vocal turn in “The Perfect Fire.” It’s an album full of stomping, storming black-thrash and its mighty entertaining.
Both Thorgeir and Dragon-T (there’s NO place for anime-based names in black metal!) impress with their riffing and leads. The solos range from nonexistent to In Flames-y and there’s clearly skill involved, although they seem to restrain themselves and avoid getting too noodle-intensive. Thorgeir’s black rasp is fun and nasty and he dives into death vox at times for added impact. The sound is crisp, clear and essentially sounds like a later-era Immortal album (surprise, surprise).
There’s not much originality to be found on Barbaric Blood but there’s plenty of quality black thrash with energy and snap. Lots of cool riffs, rollicking anger and general hatred, it’s all here and I like it. If you like Immortal, you likely will too. This isn’t a landmark release by any means but I found myself going back to it a fair amount in a year without a new Immortal platter. Geez, how many freaking times did I mention Immortal in this review? Just check it out already! I’m gonna go crawl in the corner with my Immortal, my precious!