Blazon Stone - Hymns of Triumph and Death
Stormspell Records
Pirate-themed speed metal
12 songs (54' 37")
Release year: 2019
Stormspell Records
Reviewed by Andy

What do you do when your favorite band stops being able to produce anything good? If you're a metal reviewer, alas! you are usually limited to panning the stinkers you force yourself to listen all the way through, praying all the while that your heroes finally get their act together, throw the drum machine in the garbage, and write some decent songs. Or, if you're former Rocka Rollas frontman Cederick Forsborg, you start a tribute band: No mere cover band, but a conscious creator of original songs that approximate, as closely as possible, the sound of their original's glory days.

In this case, the tribute band, named after a classic song in true tribute-band style, is Blazon Stone. The formerly glorious old band is Running Wild, themselves named after a song from their heroes. And Blazon Stone's latest album, Hymns of Triumph and Death, is the sort of thing Rock 'n' Rolf Kasparek could have made right around the year that Forsborg was born, back when he was the same age Forsborg is now.

Listen to Heart of Stone, the first (and my favorite) track, and you'll need to remind yourself several times that it's a tribute you're listening to, and that Rolf hasn't thrown over generic garbage like Shadowmaker to start making great music again. Forsborg's imperfect imitation of Kasparek's distinctive voice actually makes the resemblance greater, since he sounds more like the older, thin-voiced Rock 'n' Rolf of today than the roaring monster that enthralled oceangoing metal scalawags of the late 80s and early 90s. Riff-wise, he has the Kasparek picking style down to the point of indistinguishability; a few times, melodies on tracks such as Hellbound for the Ocean or Dance of the Dead even outshine their originals. And riffs? Given the narrow parameters the guy's working within (he does repeat himself quite a few times), Forsborg's ability to produce unique-sounding songs is impressive.

There is one caveat to this. If one isn't as die-hard a fan of RW's golden age as Forsborg, and expect Blazon Stone to build on its success in being what fans wish Running Wild still was, Hymns of Triumph and Death might disappoint a little; it's been five albums, and though they are all very good, still Forsborg's considerable talents all go into making music as much like his idol's as possible. That is beside the point, however. Running Wild left no obvious heir to its sound and musical themes (Alestorm's silly songs, needless to say, don't count), and fans have vainly hoped for Rock 'n' Rolf to suddenly regain interest in pirate-themed speed metal for quite a long time. Those who are looking for a good Running Wild album that was made less than fifteen years ago will find their treasure here instead. Arrrr!

Bandcamp: https://blazonstone.bandcamp.com/album/hymns-of-triumph-and-death.

Killing Songs :
Heart of Stone, Hellbound for the Ocean
Andy quoted 84 / 100
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