Stained With The Blood Of An Empire
CD | INIT-40
out of print
"Even when quiet, there is rage.
Building, festering, slowly approaching the inevitable crescendo which will cause everything to come crashing down. Those more reserved moments aren't so much a reprieve as an opportunity to brace yourself for the coming onslaught; pounding drums and riffs so heavy they could bring down a building are never very far behind.
The loud/soft dynamic done so well by bands like Buried Inside, Angel Eyes, and the Minor Times is what helps elevate Stained with the Blood of an Empire to a much more revered status, as the flow that these four tracks ride on is one defined by unexpected action. The songs course through such a path that anticipation is impossible, leaving tracks like "Tides Up the Crescent City" in a place that requires attention to each drum pattern, each riff, each bass bridge.
There's no telling when this four-piece will combust into a cathartic musical explosion, and often there's instances where it seems for a few minutes that they're on the cusp, only to have the chord progressions peak and louden just a little bit more. That tactic is worked to perfection in the aforementioned track, as the first five minutes is spent in a tense pattern of increasing the volume as much as possible without hitting the edge, until finally the Circle Takes the Square-esque screams enter the fray and create a storm of passion only quelled by the crashing cymbals behind it. Singer and guitarist Andrew Wallin is able to build off his bandmates and adjust his vocal patterns to whatever is being played; no matter how loud or soft, no matter how fast or slow, he matches and intensifies the rhythm to create an even more chaotic situation than was present before.
"A Lifeless Polar Desert" begins in somewhat of an uncharacteristic fashion, as the vocals and instrumentation begin at the very same time, both slowly brooding, until the vocals cut out and the riffing intensifies, becoming louder but more melodic at the same time, until Wallin again unleashes some chilling screams - and the song is only a third of a the way over. A plethora of ups, downs, twists and turns follow, with vocals cascading in and out, guitars squalling and crushing, drums and bass keeping it all in check.While maybe not as epic as some of their counterparts, Battlefields maintain, if nothing else, a sense of dynamics. They know when to turn it up, when to turn it down, and maybe more importantly, when to just keep everyone guessing." (4 Stars out of 5)
"Battlefield's Stained With The Blood Of An Empire is a short, but epic, blast of doom metal. Combining sludgy guitars and harsh vocals courtesy of ex-Dispensing Of False Halos front man Rusty Steele, this sounds kind of like the missing link between Isis and Converge, and that's a comparison frequently made towards this band. Creepy samples add a layer of ambiance to band's collective sound, drawing you deeper into the disc's apocalyptic atmosphere.
Drummer Rob Schmidt skillfully navigates through the band's lengthy, progressive song structures. While he shows tasteful restraint where necessary, he isn't afraid to go off when the time calls for it (the double bass blast on "Intimations Of Antiquity" is particularly awesome). Guitarists Matt Migliciano and Andy Wallin creep along with ominous low-tuned riffage and off-kilter single note lines. Although it'd be nice to hear what this band would sound like with a bassist, they're already heavy enough without it.
If you're looking for something to listen to while you cry about your ex, you sure as hell won't find it here. With topics ranging from devastating floods ("Tides Upon The Crescent City") to plots to hide the secrets behind human existence ("Intimations Of Antiquity"), each of the disc's four tracks sound like something a history or anthropology student would write rather than anything you'd hear from your average metal or hardcore band. This is well-educated stuff to be sure, and it's certainly nice to hear a band stray from the beaten lyrical path.
Stunning artwork courtesy of Red Sparowe's Josh Graham encases Stained With The Blood Of An Empire with a fittingly dark visual flair. This might not quite be up your alley if you have a short attention span, but those who can appreciate Battlefield's long, drawn out sense of songwriting will be rewarded for their patience. At only four songs it's brief enough to avoid overstaying its welcome, and it ends before you'd really have a chance to get bored. If you're into bands like Neurosis, strongly consider making this your next purchase.RIYL: Isis, Neurosis, or Red Sparowes" (8 out of 10)
- Ben Sailer
I believe "Stained With the Blood of an Empire" (Init Records) is the debut release from Battlefields, and it certainly gets me curious as to where this band is going to go. Be not misled by the appearance of only four tracks, as each song tops seven minutes and the total running time of the disc nears 35 minutes. Opening with shimmery clean guitars and abstract ambient hums over sparse percussive rolls before drying out a bit and becoming more riff-oriented, everything finally builds up to distortion and a dual vocal attack of fierce midrange sneers and lower "growls" (for lack of a better word) some five minutes in - reverting back to eerily reverberated clean guitars and distant hums less than a minute later (this time with vocals, however). That pretty much sets the stage for the type of ever-shifting dynamics that make up this listening experience as a whole, from bright smatterings of those "post-rock" textures and stripped down clean passages to surging power chord rhythms and even the occasional surfacing of borderline sludgy, Sabbath-esque "doom". I love the atmosphere of the music, especially some of the darker clean passages (which actually tend to dominate several of the compositions), which are not only the most striking elements, but also work the best with the spacious and natural warmth of the recording. It's sort of weird, because certain aspects of the recording are fuckin' great, but the distorted guitars could definitely use a little more oomph in terms of filling out the mix and adding contrast - though it's possible that with all the back-and-forth they intentionally tried to keep the distorted passages from being overpowering, I'm not sure. The bass could use a hint more prominence as well, though, because it certainly doesn't jump out at you, and there's plenty of room in the heart of the mix for that additional low-end throb. But aside from those minor nuances, this is a nice little release. A damn solid start, and most likely the best is still to come...Make the grab if you like what you hear.
New Scheme, The #16:
Let's face it; Battlefields' debut doesn't take long to fall directly into the post-Neurosis epic metal category. In fact, it takes little more than a minute into "Tides Upon The Crescent City", the eight-minute opener. The bulk of the 33 minutes these four songs gobble up fall into one of two extremes. There are a lot of slow, methodical build-ups, which more than earn comparisons to Red Sparowes. The rest of made up of much more jagged and straightforward riff-based sections with more conventional, almost black metal elements. Where these two extremes meet tend to be the most memorable sections of the record. Thankfully, they appear really often. There are rarely any transitions to speak of between the quiet and loud parts. Instead, the heavier sections appear almost out of nowhere to the uninitiated listener. But, after a couple spins you can really feel them oming, despite obvious clues. The end of "Intimations Of Antiquity" is the best example of this. Little more than a minute into the song, lush guitar echoes and slow drumming suddenly give way to Botch-like metal-core. The slowdown after it is about as gradual as anything on the record, lasting all of about thirty seconds.
Everything about these four songs is epic in its scope and completely abrupt in its delivery. Both of these defining elements of Battlefields' sound land then solidly in a well-defined (and recently expanding) sub-genre. But they also help to make this exactly the sort of extreme, uncompromising example of epic, slow motion metal that actually sticks.
Give Me Back #52: