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Byron Roberts of Bal-Sagoth on stage in Bradford, England, 2002.
|Also known as||Byron, Lord Byron, Byron A. Roberts|
|Genres||Black metal, death metal|
|Occupation(s)||Vocalist, lyricist, songwriter|
|Labels||Cacophonous, Nuclear Blast|
Byron Roberts, also known as Byron A. Roberts, is the vocalist/lyricist and founder of the British symphonic extreme metal band Bal-Sagoth. Originally hailing from Yorkshire, England, and also holding full Canadian citizenship, due to many years spent living in Ontario and Quebec, Roberts graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with an Honours Degree in English, writing his final year thesis on the genres of pulp fantasy, science fiction and horror, and more specifically the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Roberts originated the band's concept, and writes all the lyrics for Bal-Sagoth, having performed the vocals on all six Bal-Sagoth albums to date as well as the band's 1993 demo.
1989 – 1993: The inception of Bal-Sagoth
Roberts came up with the idea for the band Bal-Sagoth around 1989. For years, he had been seeking suitable musicians with whom he could collaborate to realise his grand vision of forming "a sublimely symphonic black/death metal band swathed in a concept of dark fantasy/science-fiction and ancient myths & legends." However, none of those he approached were willing to commit to the endeavour. In 1993, after several aborted attempts to launch the project, he was introduced to the musician Jonny Maudling and his brother Chris Maudling, who were at that time jamming cover versions with their friends, and who were also looking to form a serious band. Rehearsals followed, and some months later, after a minor line-up reshuffle, the formal inception of Bal-Sagoth took place. The band began composing songs, the ultimate result (now some nineteen years later) being a six album discography currently available from Cacophonous Records and Nuclear Blast. For a more extensive account of the band and its releases, see Bal-Sagoth.
Lyrical content and influences
Drawing inspiration from such writers as Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, Shakespeare, Arthur C. Clarke, Clark Ashton Smith, David Gemmell, George Lucas, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Roberts set out to create his own dark and baroque fantasy universe, with tales told through the medium of extreme metal albums. He named the band Bal-Sagoth in honour of one of his primary literary inspirations, the writer Robert E. Howard, whose story "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth" had first appeared in the legendary pulp fantasy magazine Weird Tales during the 1930s. Sometimes dubbed "The Multiverse" and/or "The Omniverse", Roberts's lyrical world is an extensive landscape of fantasy/science fiction, ranging from intergalactic tales of rogue gods and cosmic empires, to historical epics and high adventures, to sword and sorcery style sagas. The stories of the lyrical world are all connected to a greater or lesser degree, and are roughly divided into several different eras. The first era is the "antediluvian" epoch, during which most of the sword & sorcery style stories take place. Tales occurring even earlier than this, such as when the planet Earth consisted of the megacontinent Pangaea, are also usually grouped into this broad chronological categorisation. Then there is an era covering recorded human history from ancient times to roughly the end of World War II, during which Roberts's historical stories occur. Thirdly there is a future era, which roughly dates from the year 2104 all the way to a timeframe many thousands of years in the future, and it is during this epoch that the science-fiction oriented stories take place. Key inspirations for the vast canon are arcane mythology, ancient history, legends, and the occult. The world of the lyrics is a vast place spanning countless millennia, and is chronicled in Roberts's forthcoming A-Z Glossary Mk. II, dubbed simply "The Lexicon".
Byron Roberts creates all the concepts, storylines, characters, places and lyrics for Bal-Sagoth. He also designed the band logo, the album cover concepts, and all the booklet layouts.
The Expanded Multiverse
Roberts also plans to publish a series of Bal-Sagoth related comic books/graphic novels further detailing the extensive stories of the lyrical multiverse, as well as a collection of illustrated prose stories, and even collectible cards featuring his characters, to be illustrated by his longtime artistic collaborator Martin Hanford.
On 21 February 2015 the fantasy anthology paperback "Swords of Steel" was published by DMR Books. The publication contains a short story by Bal-Sagoth vocalist/lyricist Byron Roberts entitled "Into the Dawn of Storms" which features Byron's character Captain Caleb Blackthorne who first appeared in the lyrics to the third Bal-Sagoth album Battle Magic in 1998.
On 30 July 2015, the fantasy anthology "Barbarian Crowns" was published by Horrified Press/Barbwire Butterfly Books. This publication contains a short story by Byron Roberts entitled "Chronicles of the Obsidian Crown" which features characters and events from the Bal-Sagoth lyrical canon. The story is part of the "Obsidian Crown Saga" which also features on the Bal-Sagoth albums Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule and The Chthonic Chronicles. On the same day, the fantasy anthology "Devil's Armory" was also published by Horrified Press. This publication contains a short story by Byron Roberts entitled "Darkfall: Return of the Vampyre Hunter" which features the character Joachim Blokk, who first appeared in the lyrics of the third Bal-Sagoth album Battle Magic. Additionally, a poem by Roberts entitled "When Dead Cthulhu Dreams" was included in the anthology "Beyond the Cosmic Veil", also published by Horrified Press.
On 27 February 2016, the fantasy anthology paperback "Swords of Steel II" was published by DMR Books. This publication contains a short story by Byron Roberts entitled "A Voyage on Benighted Seas", the second installment of the Caleb Blackthorne trilogy which began in the first volume of "Swords of Steel".
On 19 May 2017, the fantasy anthology paperback "Swords of Steel III" was published by DMR Books. This publication contains a short story by Byron Roberts entitled "The Scion at the Gate of Eternity", the third installment of the Caleb Blackthorne trilogy featuring characters from the Bal-Sagoth lyrical canon.
Byron Roberts's original vocal style combines black metal screams with a pitched-down "narrator's" voice, enabling him to relay story elements in a clear and compelling manner, present dialogue between characters, and imbue the vocals with a "light and dark" contrasting feel. Roberts's primary musical inspirations are bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Sabbat, Slayer, et al.
Battle Orders and medieval re-enactment
Roberts also came up with the idea of a sponsorship with a replica arms & armour supplier in 1996. As a result, the company Battle Orders Ltd. supplied him with an array of swords and other replica materials that he often uses on stage and in publicity photos.
In addition to his writing and musical pursuits, Byron Roberts also has an extensive history of experience in medieval battle re-enactment societies. Some of the groups of which he has been a member include "Knights in Battle Medieval Society (13th century)", "The Company of the Hawk (15th century)", "The Howards (15th century)", "The Burgundians (15th century)", "The Warhird of Thorr Yngvisson (Dark Ages)", and "Regia Anglorum (Dark Ages)".
- Bal-Sagoth Demo (1993)
- A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria (Cacophonous, 1995)
- Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule (Cacophonous, 1996)
- Battle Magic (Cacophonous, 1998)
- The Power Cosmic (Nuclear Blast, 1999)
- Atlantis Ascendant (Nuclear Blast, 2001)
- The Chthonic Chronicles (Nuclear Blast, 2006)
- Apocryphal Tales (Godreah/Exhumation, 2013)
- 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.
- "The Cimmerian", vol.4, number 3, 2007, p. 9. ISSN 1548-3398
- The Jack Kirby Collector, issue 50, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008, p. 145. ISBN 978-1-893905-89-4
- Roberts, Byron; et al. (2015). Swords of Steel. DMR Books. ISBN 0990990001.
- Roberts, Byron; et al. (2015). Barbarian Crowns. Horrified Press/Barbwire Butterfly Books. ISBN 9781326350383.
- Roberts, Byron; et al. (2015). Devil's Armory. Horrified Press/Barbwire Butterfly Books. ISBN 9781326337513.
- Roberts, Byron; et al. (2015). Beyond the Cosmic Veil. Horrified Press/Barbwire Butterfly Books. ISBN 9781326318864.
- Roberts, Byron; et al. (2016). Swords of Steel II. DMR Books. ISBN 9780990990017.
- Roberts, Byron; et al. (2017). Swords of Steel III. DMR Books. ISBN 9780990990000.
- Hill, Gary. "The Strange Sound of Cthulhu", Lulu, 2006, pp. 54–57
- "The Cimmerian", vol. 4, number 3, 2007, p. 9
- "The Jack Kirby Collector", issue 50, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008, p. 145
- Official Bal-Sagoth Website
- Official site for Byron Roberts
- MySpace page of Byron Roberts
- AllMusic Guide
- Byron Roberts Discography