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Album Review: Battleroar – Codex Epicus

Battleroar’s fifth full-length album Codex Epicus sees the Greek epic metal group further hone the symphonic sounds that influenced their previous album, 2014’s Blood of Legends. There isn’t much violin this time around but there are plenty of backing choirs, keyboards, and occasional acoustics heard throughout. Thankfully, the tasteful incorporation of these elements results in a sound more in common with early 90s Bathory than 2000s-era Manowar.

The upgraded budget and extra frills also don’t keep Battleroar from keeping their classic metal aesthetic up front and center. The guitars offer a mix of triumphant mid-tempo riffing accompanied by sweeping solos, the bass is crisp, the drums somehow throw in a slew of double bass beats and fills without losing sight of the sprawling builds, and the vocals have a pseudo-operatic sneer that recalls James Rivera. They even manage to bring Manilla Road’s Mark “The Shark” Shelton in to record vocals for “Sword of the Flame” in his signature wizardly fashion.

Codex Epicus also stands out for its very lumbering pace. It often feels like the band dared itself to see how slowly they could perform without going into all-out doom territory. Even the faster parts of songs like “We Shall Conquer” and “Kings of Old” are seemingly unable to escape this vacuum. This can make it a challenging listen for more speed-minded folks, especially since the songwriting’s memorability is based more on shifting throughout different motifs than hooky lines.

But even if the tempos stay low to the ground, the executions feel downright breezy and the quality writing allows the songs to all stand out. “Chronicles of Might” has a muscular shuffle while “The Doom of Medusa” (about a frigate, not the Gorgon) bookends itself with acoustic folk touches and boasts an appropriate “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” guitar gallop. The CD version is strongly recommended, as “Stronghold” is a classic metal stomp that couldn’t just be confined to a mere split with Omen.

Battleroar is right between the old and new crops of epic metal bands, but Codex Epicus will appease fans of both generations and beyond. The symphonic metal flourishes may make it seem less bloodthirsty than your typical Robert E. Howard homage band, but even the most polished material is still delivered with that earnestly grizzled musicianship. A mandatory listen for anybody who enjoys groups like Solstice, Atlantean Kodex, and Lunar Shadow.

Highlights:
“Sword of the Flame”
“Chronicles of Might”
“The Doom of Medusa”
“Enchanting Threnody”

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