Blazon Rite – Endless Halls of Golden Totem Review

As spring slowly gives way to a hopefully post-Covid summer, thoughts turn to sunshine, sand, and SWORDS! Yes, summertime is when a young man longs to launch campaigns of conquest and quaff strange brews from the skulls of mortal enemies. Philly-based trve metal ensemble Blazon Rite timed their debut full-length to hit right when the urge to pillage begins to take hold, and Endless Halls of Golden Totem promises olde timey, proto-metal worship hopelessly stuck in the early 80s with Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road influences present and accounted for. That’s just my game, but how vast are these golden halls?

It isn’t long into opener “Legends of Time and Eidolon” that you learn two things about Blazon Rite: they’re very committed to the old ways, and their overall delivery is goofy and often painfully tongue-in-cheek. With dramatically intoned lines like “as I dismount my gelding” paired with Maiden-esque gallops, they definitely make you pay attention for better or worse. Imagine a mix of Visigoth and Nanowar of Steel and you’re close. It isn’t bad, and moments almost make me reach for my trusty steel, but it’s just a bit too awkward, sloppy and goofy to make me commit. I wanted to love “Put Down Your Steel (Only for the Night)” based on the title alone, and luckily its rocking, Eternal Champion style is entertaining and light-hearted fun, though not as battle-tested as I’d prefer.

And this is essentially the story of Endless Halls of Golden Totem. You get a mix of respectable trve metal cuts and some less successful clunkers. Lead single “Executioner’s Woe” is a cringe-inducingly corny examination of the toll the profession takes on the King’s axeman. The delivery is silly enough to qualify as a parody of the trve metal style, and the lyrics had me rolling my eyes hard enough to trigger a brain spasm. The guitar-work is endearingly quaint but the end product is sadly mediocre. The title track has interesting, engaging moments and a cool midsection shift towards Jethro Tull-style folk, but the band really struggles to craft compositions capable of taking flight and soaring high on the wings of battle and glory. They also routinely skirmish with pacing, flow and transitions. The excellently named “Alchemist’s Brute” lurches between pseudo-thrash and classic metal in an unsteady, drunken gait, seemingly unsure how best to move from one section to the next, and “Consumed by Glory Light” gets even bumpier. This gives the material a rough, unfinished feel that may be charming to some, but mostly just sounds sloppy. The production also has some issues. The promo package proudly trumpets the DIY nature of the album, recorded in a band member’s basement and bathroom. It sometimes sounds that way too, with drums too distant and muffled and vocals and/or guitars too far forward (especially on closer “Into Shore of Blood”).

The best feature of the album is the twin guitar attack of Pierson Roe and James Kirn. They’re an able tandem and pepper the songs with rousing harmonies and old school riffage. On tracks like album highpoint “The Night Watchmen of Starfall Tower” they let it all hang out with loads of Maiden-meets-Priest dual guitar harmonies, and this is when the band is at their very best. There are even a few shining moments that recall the Sherman/Denner heyday of Mercyful Fate, which is always a thrill. Less successful are the vocals by Johnny Halladay. While he isn’t the worst frontman I’ve heard and he can hit the right tones and convey the right moods at times, his delivery sometimes seems too unserious, cheeseball, and cavalier, which undermines the material. The band has some talent, but their compositional skills are clearly still in the “working out the kinks” stage of development.

Endless Halls of Golden Totem isn’t the treasure trove of old school trve metal I was hoping for, and it appears I’ll need to look elsewhere for my sword-core fix as sack season draws nigh. Still, I hear enough portents of potential to add Blazon Rite to my watchlist. Maybe with some seasoning they can deliver the ancient goods in a way that will make me rally to their banner. Until that glorious day, sun’s out, sword’s out!

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Gates of Hell Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 28th, 2021

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