The Power Cosmic


Nuclear Blast Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


So I pull The Power Cosmic, the latest disc from British death-metallers Bal-Sagoth, out of the "to be reviewed" stack in the Pierce Memorial Archives, and I said, "I didn't know that L. Ron Hubbard was writing heavy metal music." (Why not? For a guy who's been dead for years, he does a good job of updating Dianetics every friggin' year.)

I mean, how else could one explain the song titles that seem like they're lifted from some third-rate science fiction novel? Check out the jaw-fracturing title of the seventh track - "Behold, The Armies Of War Descend Screaming From The Heavens!"my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yup, I didn't exactly look forward to getting to this disc - and after listening to it, my thoughts were confirmed. Bal-Sagoth tries to cram more doom and gloom into this disc than you thought possible... if only I could understand the lyrics.

Now, I'm not against death metal, so long as it's written and executed correctly. But all the songs seem to rely on the keyboards of Johnny Maudling - so much so, in fact, that any musical brutality that helps to make this genre interesting is washed out by the synthesized noodling. Mistake number one.

Mistake number two: trying to cross death metal with progressive rock. I'm not saying it can't be done, but this attempt just isn't pretty. Tracks like "The Thirteen Cryptical Prophecies Of Mu" dare to suggest that this disc could well be this generation's Tales From Topographic Oceans... and long-time readers know how I feel about that album.

Actually, all of this makes me glad that I could hardly understand what vocalist Byron was growling about. Something tells me that if I understood the lyrics to tracks like "The Awakening Of The Stars," "Of Carnage and A Gathering Of The Wolves" or "Callisto Rising," I'd be hammering them for latching onto the warrior ethic too much.

So what exactly do I have against The Power Cosmic? First, it's far too keyboard-heavy. If you want to convince me that this music is dark, then at least move the keyboards to the background. (The exception to this would be the work of Mortiis - and even there, I'd have argued that he needed a little more than just keyboards.) Second, the music plays out like a bad Star Wars clone - and in the end is very unconvincing. Third, the genre crossing, in this case, doesn't work - and I'd tie the lyrics into this as well.

There's plenty of death metal worth your time, just as there's plenty of avant-garde music that's worthy. The Power Cosmic is not.

Rating: D

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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