Ukraine’s Balfor has been around since 1997, but it was not until recently that they signed onto Pulverised Records and finally release their debut full length, Barbaric Blood, 13 years after their formation. While I have yet to hear the band’s previous releases, Balfor currently plays a brand of symphonic black metal similar to bands such as Dimmu Borgir.
The album starts off with a symphonic track From the Ashes (… The Beginning) not unlike most symphonic black metal bands around, with keyboards and a heavy atmosphere. As the intro fades away and the album starts off proper, the band manages to retain this atmosphere laid down by the introduction with an ominous ambience throughout the entire album.
Thorgeir’s vocals are reminiscent of Shagrath’s but with a rougher edge to them and it certainly fits the symphonic style that the band plays well. However, the attempt at clean vocals on the last track, The Perfect Fire seemed a bit awkward. Melodic death metal inspired riffs are littered throughout the album and the presence of the bass is extremely prominent, often taking the stage in front of the guitars but the prominence can sometimes get pretty annoying. Another thing is the lack of guitar solos in the songs. If one listens carefully, at times tasteful guitar lines can be heard beneath the chaos above, such as on Shadow of My Raven Wings. Fortunately towards the end the band decides to give the guitarists a bit of the limelight, with the harmonised twin lead guitar solos. However, moments like these are few and seem to be placed of less importance, being at the end of the songs when the climax has already come and passed. It would certainly have been a more enjoyable listen if the lead guitars were mixed higher in the release. Some of the riffs while enjoyable tend not to stick to the listener and memory of the album after listening tend to fade away within moments.
However, this release is not without its merits. One thing is for sure, I prefer Thorgeir’s considerably more full bodied style of vocals more than those of bands like Dimmu Borgir, a blend of tortured shrieks and death metal growls. There is also potential in guitarists Thorgeir and Dragon-T, as evidenced in some of the songs and the album would certainly be more memorable with more spotlight given to the axe-wielding duo. There are also standout tracks like Pure Barbaric, showing a more aggressive side of the band.
Pulverised Records pride themselves on being able to sign good bands, especially with recent announcements of new releases by bands such as Hexen, Crucifyre and Desultory. Unfortunately, Balfor fails to meet the benchmark set forward by their fellow label-mates with their generic debut full length release.