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Bladesmith - Sharpen Your Blade Review

by Mark Hensch

The annual Tuska Open Air Metal Festival is the Wacken Festival of Finland; since 1998, tens of thousands of metalheads have descended on Kaisaniemi Park in the capital city of Helsinki each year for a raucous and brutal time. Tuska is Finnish for "pain" or "agony," and the festival regularly tries to keep up this image with a large variety of heavy metal's most devastating musical outfits. While this year's announced lineup of bands like Emperor, Immortal, Finntroll, ISIS, Blind Guardian, Moonsorrow, Dragonforce, and many more are playing, long-time HHH staple Bladesmith (Erik Wray) will be out and about handing out a special free EP to concert-goers.

Said EP, entitled Sharpen Your Blade, is yet another strong action taken in Bladesmith's solid grassroots following. Since I first began covering this band (under their original name Bane and Illusion) almost a year ago, Bladesmith has grown by leaps-and-bounds; besides the aforementioned name change, a signing to Dungeons Deep Records and all manner of upcoming releases have been announced. Bladesmith is intending this free promotional EP to correspond to each year's Tuska Festival; with each new edition of the festival, a new variant of the promo will appear, each featuring two early cuts from upcoming releases.

This inaugural edition offers iron-clad proof as to why Bladesmith recently were signed. The first cut, "Conquerors of the Barbican," is a song taken from the upcoming Tenebrous Journey split album with Estonian horde Ohvrikivi. "Barbican" sounds epic yet fuzz-drenched war horns behind a curtain of scummy tremolo-picking. Sounding traditionally Scandinavian BM, the sound soon shifts into a surprisingly hypnotic stoner groove. Blackened and swaying, this cloud of acrid and choking smoke weaves with all the potential venom of a coiled king cobra. Wray's vocals are as corrosive as stomach bile and about six times less pleasant; the amount of larynx-shredding has definitely increased in the Bladesmith camp over time, and always for the better. Smoothly injecting chilling melodic runs, stony ambient percussion breakdowns, and choirs of solemn vocal incantations ala a school of secluded monks, "Barbican" is remarkably ambitious for the work of one lone man. With this in mind, the song is amazingly crisp for so expansive a composition, and never really falters. In keeping with classic Black Metal Second Wave splits like Enslaved, Emperor, Satyricon, and the like, Bladesmith might just be bringing their best for The Tenebrous Journey.

The teaser "Battle on Ice and Snow" from the upcoming (and as yet untitled) full-length debut is fortunately even better. The album is due in September on Dungeons Deep Records, and a song like this promises violently wicked material indeed. Opening with a sinister riff straight out of the earlier Emperor catalog, pounding percussion leads listeners like lambs to be slaughtered into a veritable firestorm of blasting chaos and sickening howls. Chest-caving and rabid, the song pulses with a strong, vibrant heartbeat of filthy rage and virulent hate. The tremolo-picking flays with surgical precision, and one can almost feel the cold chill of steel on flesh as the grim melodies are slowly dragged across your ears in truly cutting fashion. A mournful congregation of somber souls echoes dismally in the wind with a chorus of moans, and the song next descends into a skeletal tangle of whirling drums and buzzing riffs. Through it all Wray's slicing shrieks stab, puncture, and pierce, their manic delivery perfectly meshing with the epic wickedness behind it all. With a fist-pumping close, this call-to-war has got me pumped for later works and I'm willing to bet most black metal purists able to track down this EP will feel the same.

As a concept, the idea of a yearly promo set to coincide with one of Northern Europe's biggest metal festivals is a cool one indeed. Sharpen Your Blade could not fulfill its purpose any better, and there is no doubt in my mind that Bladesmith is only getting better with age. Sounding infinitely more epic, filthy, and aggressive than on previous releases, these two advance copies offer insight into the new direction Bladesmith is moving in. With the light symphonic touch of Emperor, the dank menace of Mayhem, and the outright dirty vibes practiced by the Finnish scene as a whole (Beherit and Horna anyone?), Bladesmith has forged a well-crafted blade of black metal might, ready for further battles and bloodletting. Hunt this down and prepare for the war to come in August with the full-length!

It is highly recommended you hear Bladesmith for yourself at www.myspace.com/bladesmithband

Bladesmith's Sharpen Your Blade! EP
1. Conquerors of the Barbican (off the upcoming Tenebrous Journey split album with Estonia's Ohvrikivi)
2. Battles on Ice and Snow (off the upcoming and untitled full-length debut, out in August via Dungeons Deep Records)

CD Info and Links

Bladesmith - Sharpen Your Blade

Rating:9.0 (would have liked even more songs!)

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