Blazon Stone – Damnation Review

There are plenty of well-documented examples of a younger band blatantly ripping off the sound, style, and mystique of an older, more established act. Agalloch brutally stole Ulver‘s schtick. Primal Fear looted the Judas Priest playbook lock, stock, barrel, and leather chaps. None of these however were as flagrant as the wholesale thievery perpetrated by Blazon Stone upon the unsuspecting buccaneers in Running Wild. You see, Blazon Stone stole not only Running Wild‘s entire sound and pirate concept, but named themselves after one of their records, and the title of their debut album Return to Port Royal directly references Running Wild‘s Port Royal platter. In a nutshell, they raided Running Wild‘s booty hard enough to cause generational shame and trauma. And what can you say about an act whose entire existence comes down to ripping off/paying homage to another entity? In this case, you can say they certainly know their craft. Over the course of five albums, they’ve done their elder outlaw role models trve justice with some high-quality and entertaining sea shanties. Now we get their sixth outing Damnation, and the parrots and eye patches are firmly in place as the crew readies to set sail for high adventure.

It’s quite simple to explain what the listener can expect on Damnation. It’s a shockingly accurate recreation of Running Wild‘s sound circa Black Hand Inn and Pile of Skulls, down to the last nail, deck board, and cannon wheel. Since I love those albums dearly and wanted more material in that exact vein, this conceit is an easy sell, originality and fair use be damned to Davey Jones’ Locker. After a lively instrumental opener, “Endless Fire of Hate” crests the waves in fine form, guns blazing and YARRRs raining. Yes, it’s so Running Wild it hurts, right down to the raspy vocals and the trilling, jaunty guitar-work, but damn if these cats don’t do a great job recreating that sound and era. It would be the best track on several latter-era albums by their chief (only) influence, so you know they have it going on. The chorus is infectious and gets the blood pumping and entertainment is had by all. Cuts like “Raiders of Jolly Roger” (these brigands have no self-awareness and even less shame), and “Black Sails on the Horizon” are shockingly good, demanding numerous replays. Nostalgia runs deep in these waters, but the songs can stand proudly on their own merits.

Damnation sails along from one uber-catchy hit to another with nary a deadening of their momentum. “Chainless Spirit” and “Hell on Earth” are very easy to like, and most tracks have a chorus that hits hard and holds fast. Hell, even nearly 10-minute closer “Highland Outlaw” works and holds your interest as it pillages the coastline for hooks and rich, creamy crabmeat. It reminds me a lot of “Treasure Island” off of Pile of Skulls, which is a good thing indeed. Despite all this success, I’ll admit that I found myself waiting for the album to veer off course and run out of purloined ideas, as Running Wild eventually did, but that black day never arrives. At 43 minutes, Damnation cruises along in an excitable rush and ends before you tire of their freebooting tomfoolery. Without a weak track or a serious misstep, you have to call this voyage a success, and with so many quality songs in the cargo hold, respect must be given. Downsides? Well, this is a total homage act and that does ultimately count against them a wee bit.

Blazon Stone is the Cederick Forsberg show, with him manning guitar as well as writing all the material and recording it as well. His ability to craft riffs and melodies right from the playbook of their marauding muse borders on unnatural. Along with fellow guitarist Emil Westin Skogh, he litters the album with energetic, jaunty leads that make you want to swing a stein of ale and slosh brew on your pirate beshirted compadres. To complete the Running Wild experience, Matias Palm’s vocal delivery is almost exactly like Rock n’ Rolf’s. Blazon Stone run a very tight ship musically and they know how to craft memorable anthems with a never-ending supply of hooks.

Having spent very little time with Blazon Stone in the past despite being a big fan of Running Wild, Damnation was a breath of fresh ocean air. I should have signed on to this mission years ago, but Damnation converted me and now I’m a believer. Maybe they have nothing at all going on that’s their own or truly original, but they sure can craft killer tunes in the uber narrow niche they’ve carved for themselves. Buy this album, batten down the hatches, and get ready to live a life of lawlessness, you dog-faced scalawags. Sometimes crime really pays.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: StormSpell Records
Websites: blazonstone.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/blazonstoneofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 15th, 2021

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