Blazon Rite carry burning torch for power metal, light emotions on ‘Wild Rites and Ancient Songs’

I don’t know if it’s the overabundance of bands and releases in this era or a lack of creativity, but the album covers for heavy metal bands aren’t what they used to be. It seems like so much art is just kind of there, often seemingly done by the same artist or firm, splashing some random scary image or desolate wasteland and not really engaging the buyer. We need a cover without much thought!

Philly’s Blazon Rite do not have this problem, as their frosty and classical art for their second record “Wild Rites and Ancient Songs” can attest. Maybe it’s because I’m an old and remember the formative years of epic power metal, but for two albums in a row now, this band has come up with a cover that generates emotion and makes it feel like the record you’re about to hear is an actual adventure like they did decades ago. And it is. The band—vocalist Johnny Halladay, guitarists Pierson Roe and James Kirn, bassist Devin Graham, drummer Ryan Haley—waited precious little time after finishing debut “Endless Halls” to get to work on this record, and it’s a confident, swaggering piece of classic heavy metal that’s often tried but rarely made quite this thunderously and faithfully.

“Autumn Fear Brings Winter Doom” powers open with a twin guitar assault, driving hard fueled by Halladay’s vocals, which definitely have an epic edge but also some punk bravado. The storming pace brings a great flurry, guitars racing for the sun, group shouts giving back adrenaline. Tension builds as everything in is full command, leaving you in the dust. “Salvage What You Can of the Night” has an energetic pace, and the band makes things simple but effective. The chorus jolts, Halladay howling, “Savage moonlight guides my way, I must run forever free, a new quest every day,” as the soloing ignites, burning everything to the ground and ending in dust. “The Fall of a Once Great House” starts with clean, solemn guitar work, feeling folkish and dark like storm clouds are rolling over the sky. The pace picks up as the vow to stand their ground makes its impact, Halladay calling, “We knew this day would come, but we would never kneel.” The bass charges as the guitars begin to explode, the chorus rushes back, and the final jabs send electricity through your veins.

“Mark of the Stormborn Raiders” starts with a speedy pace galloping, another meaty chorus lays into you, and the vocals flex their muscles. Soloing erupts and keeps the racing going, delivering fire and brimstone before ending in a gut stomp. The title track starts with acoustics blowing through the air, birds chirping, and the playing churning, Halladay’s bellowing singing taking on a heavier presence. The gas pedal is used a little more liberally as the singing gets grittier, and then the guitars open the floodgates, the energy coming on and the spirit slowly fading away. “Troubadours of the Final Quarrel” is quite the song title, and it starts just blazing, the guitars bringing up dust, the vocals pushing into your chest cavity. The tempo goes for broke, the chorus punches back, and the final moments feel like a bomb going off just feet away from you. Closer “The Coming Tide of Yule” (a Christmas song!) brings on tremendous riffs, singing that goes directly to your face, and the agitation ripping for your throat. Things go off the handle, speeding and powdering bone, a steamy haze rising and wilting flesh, and the last blasts get your juices flowing before ending in ceremonial power.

The power and epic metal category has been getting significant contributions from plenty of newer bands over the past few years, and Blazon Rite are right up there along with them. “Wild Rites and Ancient Songs” is a title that kind of lets you know what you’re in before you take on the songs, and they absolutely deliver from the start. This is a charging, classic-style metal record that not only adds weight to their chosen sub-genre, but it significantly makes it world better. And that castle lying in snowy power sure as hell seems ready to storm.

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