Blacksword – Alive Again Review

With a tagline of “heavy metal from Siberia” and an eye-catchingly awful cover, Blacksword caught this primate’s primal attention. This is the sophomore outing by a group that last released something way back in 2010, so I wasn’t expecting a whole heck of a lot from these cold weather warriors. What you get on Alive Again however is a surprisingly spry and enjoyable dose of epic flavored traditional metal borrowing from the American power metal sound of the 80s as well as modern acts like Iced Earth and Diviner. Technical chops are in happy abundance, as is a knack for crafting the kind of epic, bombastic metal Jag Panzer and Iced Earth are known for. Sounds like a potential recipe for success in a summer of uninspiring releases.

With take-no-prisoner opener “Iron Will” you get the full picture of what Blacksword can do. It’s like a vintage Vicious Rumors song injected with Visigoth serum and that means chest-plates, warhammers and siege engines are back on the menu, boys! Crunchy, beefy riffs propel the onslaught as Mike Lee’s powerful, Carl Albert meets Russell Allen-esque vocals help scale the summit to the place where armored eagles fly and tyrants die. This is the kind of song I can drink by the gallon and to say it got my attention fast is an understatement. “Immortal Hero” is more of the same mailed fist to the codpiece – epic-sized Manometal with a bigger-than-Jesus vocal performance by Lee. It’s the same caliber stuff Diviner cranked out on their last opus, which means I’m the apeish demographic. The slight Russell Allen tint to Lee’s delivery recalls prime Symphony X, though he also lapses into some Ripper-esque wailing and screeching at times which I don’t completely love.

The Diviner comparisons remain apt on strong cuts like “Long Lost Days,” which slips some blackened guitar-work into the fray, and the excellent “Darkest Heart” which packs in some Sanctuary elements for a big win. Even the 8-minute odyssey of the title track works and feels significantly shorter than it is. There are no bad songs present, nor would I cut any of them were I to have such unreasonable power. You knew there had to be a “but” in here someplace though, right? Blacksword can write a killer tune with big hooks and they do so throughout Alive Again, but they lack a sense of when to end their compositions for maximum effect. Quality cuts often impress only to squander some of that good will by trailing on a minute or two past the attention death line (“Immortal Hero,” “Barbarian Born”). While the album itself only runs 49 minutes, the extra padding around its middle makes it feel a bit too long. Another issue is the overloud production which really hurts the album if you try to crank it up, as it then dissolves into a distorted, ungodly mess.

I’m well impressed by all the performances here. Artem Omelenchuk and Denis Grebenkin tear it up on guitar, delivering a crushing collection of burly, badass riffs and soaring, tasteful solos. There’s a nice convergence of Iced Earth and Brainstorm ethos in their playing which keeps the material heavy and driving. They dabble with proggy ideas sparingly but do take a few chances here and there with interesting results.  Mike Lee is a vocal talent with a very broad range and he’s the secret weapon in the Blacksword arsenal. He nails the material 90% of the time but he has a tendency to do the whole “scream like my testicles were being chewed off by piranhas” thing to emphasize key moments. This undermines the songs whenever he leans too heavily in that direction. He shines brightest when he’s more restrained and the songs gleam all the brighter too. Less is more.

Alive Again is one of those albums you had no reason to see coming and it’s only barely held back from a much higher score by a few nagging issues. Flaws aside, I’m really enjoying Alive Again and I expect to keep enjoying it for a good long time. With a bit more self-editing the next album from these blizzard beasts could be a threat to usurp the epic metal throne and cart it back to Mother Russia. If you need a trve metal fix, this will fix you up all good like.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: No Remorse
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 30th, 2021

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