Bal-Sagoth

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Bal-Sagoth
Origin Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England
Genres Symphonic black metal
Years active 1989−present
Labels Cacophonous, Nuclear Blast
Website www.bal-sagoth.co.uk
Members Byron Roberts
Jonny Maudling
Chris Maudling
Paul Jackson
Alistair MacLatchy
Past members Jason Porter
Vincent Crabtree
Leon Forrest
Dave Mackintosh
Dan Mullins
Mark Greenwell

Bal-Sagoth is a symphonic black metal band from Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, formed in 1989.

Originally formed as an epic/symphonic black metal band with strong death metal elements, vocalist/lyricist Byron Roberts took the name 'Bal-Sagoth' from the Robert E. Howard short story "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth". Their first demo was recorded in 1993, and Bal-Sagoth have since released three albums on Cacophonous Records, and three with Nuclear Blast.

History[edit]

Early days (1989-1993)[edit]

Bal-Sagoth was conceived in 1989 by Byron Roberts, in an attempt to form what he called "A sublimely symphonic black/death metal band swathed in a concept of dark fantasy/science fiction and ancient myths & legends."[1] Inspired by such writers and artists as Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien and Jack Kirby, Byron set out to create his own dark fantasy universe, with tales told through epic lyrics and music.[1] After several unsuccessful attempts to launch the project, Byron was introduced to the brothers Chris and Jonny Maudling in 1993,[2] who were also looking to form a serious band. This formed what would become the writing core of the outfit. After several months of rehearsing, and following a line up reshuffle which saw the departure of lead guitarist Alistair MacLatchy, the band recorded their first demo in late 1993.[2] The band roster at this point consisted of Byron Roberts on vocals, Chris Maudling on guitar, Jonny Maudling on drums, Jason Porter on bass and Vincent Crabtree on keyboards.[2] The demo attracted the attention of Cacophonous Records, who signed the band[2] to a three album deal.[3]

First Trilogy (1994-1999)[edit]

The band entered Academy Music Studio in June 1994 and recorded their debut album, A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria, in just two weeks. Due to label problems, the album was shelved for nearly a year, finally seeing the light of day in 1995. The album showcased more traditional black metal/death metal ideas, and fewer symphonic elements.[opinion] The vocal style of Byron Roberts is also slightly different from later efforts, using more traditional death metal and black metal grunts, as well as the spoken narrative passages which would become more prevalent on subsequent albums.

In 1996, Bal-Sagoth released Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule, again recorded at Academy Music Studio in England. The album marked a key shift in the band's sound,[opinion]now focusing more on the composition and arrangement skills of drummer (and studio keyboard player) Jonny Maudling,[opinion] as well as the "storytelling" aspect of Byron Roberts's spoken-word vocals. Through keyboards, the band incorporated a virtual symphony orchestra as an equal fifth instrument, along with guitar, bass, drums and vocals. This new sound would be expanded and explored on all four of the band's later efforts.

Joined by touring keyboardist Leon Forrest and bassist Alistair MacLatchy, who had in fact been an original member of the band in its very earliest incarnation, Bal-Sagoth teamed up with Dark Funeral and Ancient in March 1997 for the "Starfire Engulfs Europe Tour" (AKA the "Satanic War Tour II"), a 23-date trek through Europe, followed by the second leg in October 1997 with the black metal band Emperor and thrash metal outfit Nocturnal Breed.

Bal-Sagoth spent much of 1997 writing and recording what would become the album Battle Magic. Again recorded at Academy Music Studio in England, this time the band were afforded nearly a full month to record the album. Released in March 1998, Battle Magic caught the attention of Nuclear Blast records, who subsequently signed Bal-Sagoth to a three album deal with worldwide distribution (a first for the band).

Rather than tour in support of Battle Magic, the band opted to immediately focus on the writing and recording of their Nuclear Blast debut. Frustrated with fill-in tour keyboard players, Jonny Maudling decided to focus full-time on composition and live keyboards in 1999, handing drum duties over to Dave Mackintosh (later of DragonForce).

Second Trilogy (1999-2006)[edit]

In 1999, Bal-Sagoth released their first album with Nuclear Blast, The Power Cosmic. Focusing on an intergalactic tale of war, cosmic empires, and celestial gods, the album pushed the band to new heights both artistically, and in popularity. After the release of The Power Cosmic, the band again disappeared, playing no shows until the release of 2001's Atlantis Ascendant.

The band resurfaced as a live act in 2001, embarking on "The Fifth Cataclysm Devours Europe: Phase 1" tour (AKA: No Mercy festival tour) with Mortician, Sinister, Vader, Amon Amarth, Marduk, God Dethroned, ...and Oceans, and Mystic Circle. Shortly after this, they embarked upon another European tour with Marduk. Later in 2002, the band played the Bloodstock indoor festival, which was followed by a short tour with Return to the Sabbat in the United Kingdom. In 2004, Dave Mackintosh left the band and joined DragonForce. He was replaced by Dan Mullins (the current drummer of My Dying Bride), who made his debut with Bal-Sagoth at Wacken Open Air 2004.

In March 2006, Bal-Sagoth released their long awaited sixth album, The Chthonic Chronicles on Nuclear Blast records. The music was recorded entirely at Jonny Maudling's Waylands Forge Studios, while the vocals of Byron Roberts were recorded once again at the famed Academy Music Studio. Shortly after its release the band recruited a new drummer, Paul Jackson. The album was the band's first in five years, and is rumoured to be their last, although the band have stated [4] that they have no concrete intentions of either recording another album or splitting up, and that various members of the band may soon be announcing side projects.

Recent activity (2006-2012)[edit]

In the summer of 2006, Bal-Sagoth played at the Bloodstock Open Air festival, and in January 2007 they made their first trip to the USA to headline the "Heathen Crusade II" festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. In January 2008, they journeyed to Finland to headline shows in Helsinki and Turku, supported by Finnish band Battlelore, and in November 2008 they played the Screamfest festival in Oslo, Norway. In May 2009, the band played two shows in Lisbon and Porto, Portugal. In January 2010, Mark Greenwell left the band to be replaced by previous bassist Alistair MacLatchy, and in March 2010, Bal-Sagoth returned to Finland to play a show in Helsinki with fellow English band Skyclad. On August 14, 2010, Bal-Sagoth performed at the Brutal Assault festival in the Czech Republic. On March 5, 2011, the band played a headlining show in Bern, Switzerland.

In November 2011, three of the band's albums (The Power Cosmic, Atlantis Ascendant and The Chthonic Chronicles) were reissued as limited edition digipaks by Nuclear Blast's affiliate label Metal Mind Productions. The reissues featured expanded lyric booklets, additional artwork and remastered audio. The band also announced on their Facebook page that they are planning a limited edition re-release of their demo, previously only available in very limited numbers via cassette tape. In March 2013 it was announced that the 1993 demo release would be entitled "Apocryphal Tales" and would be available as a "20th anniversary" limited edition 12 inch vinyl LP, issued through the independent label Sacrilege Records. In September 2013 Bal-Sagoth announced that the release had been changed to limited edition 10" vinyl and CD, now issued by the UK labels Godreah Records and Exhumation Records.

In February 2013 it was announced that Bal-Sagoth guitarist Chris Maudling and keyboardist Jonny Maudling had formed a new band called "Kull", composed of various members of Bal-Sagoth and unsigned death metal band Dyscaphia.

Lyrical Mythology[edit]

The Multiverse[edit]

The "Multiverse" is the alternate reality in which the lyrics of Byron Roberts are set. Based on ideas similar in concept to H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and especially Robert E. Howard, the Multiverse is mostly past tense, wherein Roberts describes ancient events that have already transpired. Worldwide floods, pan-galactic wars, rogue demigods, ancient empires and kingdoms, and sinister artifacts compose this alternate history of the earth. Mythical places such as Atlantis, Hyperborea, Ultima Thule, Ys, Mu and Lemuria feature prominently in the band's Antediluvian World. Additionally, many of the lyrics are set within the framework of recognizable history, with a cast of characters including historical barbarians, gladiators, corsairs and privateers, archaeologists and occult investigators whose exploits take place during recorded history from Roman times through the age of Reason, the late 19th century and early 20th century. Along with Byron's other, more science fiction oriented lyrics detailing a far future era of galactic struggle and interstellar war, the Bal-Sagoth lyrics span countless aeons and are truly epic in scope.

Legends of the lyrical world of Bal-Sagoth[edit]

  • The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire - A three part saga wherein one of the Kings of Hyperborea is forced to meet the forces of the Chaos Lord Angsaar at the Shrine of A'zura-Kai, where they battle for control of the powerful Crystal of Mera. The King wields the mighty Shadow Sword, which was used long before by an Immortal of Ultima Thule in a battle to defeat Lord Angsaar during his first rise to power. Featured on the albums Starfire Burning... (Pt. I), Battle Magic (Pt. II), and Atlantis Ascendant (Pt. III).
  • The Obsidian Crown Saga - The tale of the warring kingdoms of Vyrgothia and The Imperium. The Imperium invades Vyrgothia, besieging the fortress of Gul-Kothoth, but the Over-King of Vyrgothia unleashes the dread Obsidian Crown, which contains arcane power and was once wielded by the Shadow King, an entity of immense power who had slumbered for many aeons. Featured on the albums Starfire Burning... and The Chthonic Chronicles. The lyric booklet to "The Chthonic Chronicles" revealed that the full Obsidian Crown saga spans twelve episodes in total.
  • The battles of the tribal over-king Caylen-Tor - A barbarian warrior who forges a tenuous alliance of the tribes of his northern homeland, Caylen-Tor must lead his clansmen into battle against the overwhelming forces of the eastern Mytos K'unn empire. The decisive clash occurs at Blackhelm Vale and results in the Imperial forces being repulsed by the rag-tag tribal warhird. Featured on the album Starfire Burning... and also referenced on the album Battle Magic.
  • The Quest of Zurra for the Empyreal Lexicon - The galactic tale of Zurra, a rogue demigod (in truth an alien genetic experiment gone horribly wrong) who is released from his imprisonment beneath the Mare Imbrium, as he searches for the pieces of the powerful Empyreal Lexicon. He travels to Callisto, faces the fiends of the Z'xulth, and finally wreaks havoc on ancient Mu, but is thwarted by his clone progenitor Zuranthus and The Prime Voyager. Featured on The Power Cosmic.
  • The Chronicles of the Forest-King of Darkenhold - Many tales are set within or indirectly involve the great Darkenhold forest and its mystical sylvan liege, the Forest King. Primarily allegorical in nature, the forest sagas involve such elements as the encroachment of an insidious eastern foe into the sovereign boundaries of the forest, and are also thematically linked to the story of the Draconis Albionensis and the legendary Dragon Cavalry which protected Albion from all foreign foes.
  • The Guardians of the Astral Gate - These sidereal sentinels are the eternal keepers of the portal between the realm of the Z'xulth and the terran dimensions. Headed by Xuk'ul, this group of demigods is constantly summoned by aspirants in various attempts at gaining power or knowledge. Their ruthlessness when dealing with such querents is unrivaled. Other guardians include Kur'oc, Gul-Kor (these two guardians are the most popular, as they are summoned more than any other guardians), and Ka-Kur-Ra. Featured on the albums Starfire Burning..., Battle Magic, The Power Cosmic, Atlantis Ascendant, and The Chthonic Chronicles.
  • The Adventures of Professor Caleb Blackthorne III - English archaeologist and specialist in conjectural antediluvian anthropology, Professor Blackthorne travels the globe in search of ancient mysteries and forbidden knowledge before ultimately falling foul of the mysterious powers that safeguard such lore from the meddlings of mankind. Featured on the albums Atlantis Ascendant, and The Chthonic Chronicles.

Many of Byron Roberts's lyrical stories are soon to be expanded into short stories and graphic novels (written by Roberts and illustrated by fantasy artist Martin Hanford), and the forthcoming expanded Glossary, which will be an extended version of the glossary previously posted to the band's website, will be the definitive A-Z of all the characters and events of the vast lyrical universe.[5]

Members[edit]

Current members[edit]

  • Byron Roberts – vocals (1993–)
  • Jonny Maudling – drums (1993–1998) keyboards (1998–),
  • Chris Maudling – guitar (1993–)
  • Paul Jackson – drums (2006–)
  • Alistair MacLatchy – bass (1996–1998, 2010–)

Former members[edit]

  • Jason Porter – bass guitar (1993–1996)
  • Vincent Crabtree – keyboards (1993–1995)
  • Leon Forrest – keyboards (1995–1998)
  • Dave Mackintosh – drums (1998–2004)
  • Dan Mullins − drums (2004–2006)
  • Mark Greenwell - bass (1998–2010)

Discography[edit]

Year Title Label
1995 A Black Moon Broods over Lemuria Cacophonous
1996 Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule
1998 Battle Magic
1999 The Power Cosmic Nuclear Blast
2001 Atlantis Ascendant
2006 The Chthonic Chronicles
2013 Apocryphal Tales (Demo 1993) Godreah Records

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hill, Gary (2006). The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H. P. Lovecraft. Lulu. pp. 54–57. ISBN 978-1-84728-776-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. "Bal-Sagoth Biography". Allmusic. Macrovision. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  3. ^ "Official Bal-Sagoth Chronology". 
  4. ^ http://www.metalstorm.net/events/news_comments.php?news_id=16669
  5. ^ http://www.byron-a-roberts.co.uk/

External links[edit]