Named after the fictional demon from Tolkein's Middle Earth, Italy's Balrog, having some success in the underground metal scene, present their second album, Miserable Frame. Balrog's metal is quite curious, even paradoxical.
The larger context is probably traditional heavy or power metal. But the band throws in some speed, thrash, and even some doom nuances as, at times, the songs have a darker feel. Then depending on where vocalist Stefano Castagna want to go in a song, Balrog could go the route of death metal if they wish (The Curse by example). I'm not sure it's safe to call Castagna a singer or a growler. I think he really sings on only one song, Bewitched. The rest of the time, he's simply all over the spectrum. Maybe he's not even sure what 'voice' he's going to bring from one song to the next. Putting all this together, and having not heard their first album, I'm not sure where Balrog is going with their metal sound. If anything, it's probably best to call it hybrid metal.
Another curious or odd element about Balrog is the guitar angle. The arrangements are definitely big on riffage, heavy and nearly raging at times. Liner notes indicate there are to lead guitarists in the band, Stefano Luoni and Andrea Tibiletti. But here's the thing: on the first pass, I basically missed the guitar solos. Sometimes this was because they were so understated in the mix. This made me believe this was done because neither Luoni nor Tibiletti can actually offer a decent solo. Rather it was likely that the riffage is so bombastic and Castagna's vocals so dramatically distracting to miss the guitar solos. They're there, and quite good, notably on Dark City, Company of Death, and Delirium Insomniae.
To the songs then: even while Balrog is amping up the riffage and rumbling along with their power metal, they can offer some interests twists within. Hardly novel, but some songs, like Miserable Frame and The Curse, have acoustic guitar breakdowns that take the edge of the heaviness. Then there's the instrumental Dealing with the Tempest which moves by acoustic guitar, then accentuated with a symphonic layer before ending with a traditional metal guitar solo. It's probably the best, and most surprising, piece on the album. In the end, Balrog's Miserable Frame is an interesting listen, possibly even surprising for those who like their traditional heavy and power metal more status quo.
Balrog's Miserable Frame is an interesting listen, possibly even surprising for those who like their traditional heavy and power metal more status quo.
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