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Battlelore - "The Last Alliance" (CD)

Battlelore - "The Last Alliance" CD cover image

"The Last Alliance" track listing:

1. Third Immortal
2. Exile the Daystar
3. The Great Gathering
4. Guardians
5. Voice of the Fallen
6. Daughter of the Sun
7. Green Dragon
8. Awakening
9. Epic Dreams
10. Moontower
11. The Star of High Hope

Reviewed by on October 23, 2008

"'The Last Alliance' takes listeners on an epic journey through Middle Earth rivaled by few."

In early 2002, Battlelore released their debut album “…Where the Shadows Lie” on Napalm Records. Since then, the Finns have followed up with five more albums, including 2008’s “The Last Alliance.” Taking a note from the bards of yore, the Finnish fellowship channels the works of J.R.R. Tolkien into the audible world fantasy metal. From the setting of the scene by anthem-like opener “Third Immortal” to the solemn lamentation of “Daughter of the Sun” and the deeply melodic and shape shifting sound scapes of “The Star of High Hope,” “The Last Alliance” takes listeners on an epic journey through Middle Earth rivaled by few. And many artists in a number of mediums have tried - and failed - to pay homage to the late novelist.

Some of the vocals delicately put forth by Kaisa Jouhki sound like they were compressed all the way to Mordor and back again during the studio process, but the sweet innocence of her voice is not entirely lost and she’ll remind you that, in Middle Earth, there’s more to life’s journey than the demonesque orks of mind and those driven by obsessive compulsive delusions. That’s what Tomi Mykkanen’s there for. Providing both clean and growly vocals, the contrast between the two lead vocalists creates an intricate web of good/evil, love/hate, friend/enemy that, whether intentional or not, works. Factor in guest vocalists Janne Saksa and Juha Granberg into the mix, and the voices layered throughout the album are rich, and any shortcomings of each individual vocalist are quickly forgotten.

Delving into Tolkien’s vast mythologies throughout the lyrics, the septet further cements the author's place in literary history, but also makes their own mark. And even though there are plenty of sweeping orchestral keyboards and some clean guitar work, there’s still plenty of angst. Instrumentally, as with the vocals, Battlelore embraces contrast and the atmosphere it creates sounds like preparing for war.

Highs: The keyboards are very prominent, and carry a number of emotive melodies that compliment both guitars and vocals.

Lows: The guitar work is skillful and at most times catchy, but is too easily lost in the mix.

Bottom line: Even if you’re not a fan of Tolkien’s fiction, Battlelore will leave you transported.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)