Jaldaboath – The Rise of the Heraldic Beasts
Release Date: 2010Sept24 (US)
Label: Napalm Records
With mixed emotions on initial spins, I decided to give The Rise of the Heraldic Beasts a shot while test-running my recent NES purchase of Rampart ($4 CIB!), just so I could really get medieval on this album. You see, Jaldaboath alternately calls their music “Hammering Heraldic Metal”, Crusader-core” or “Tumultuous Teutonic Templar Thrash” (according to Encyclopaedia Metallum) and like one of their main influences, Monty Python, it’s all very silly.
But it’s not like this is a mistake or anything. As an important member in The Meads of Asphodel for years, eponymous mainman Jaldaboath (actual name: James Fogarty) is used to experimenting with heavy music. But there is an odd juxtaposition of sincerity that runs along the goofy tunes, mostly in the sense of not breaking character. Kinda like the album art, which looks inspired by frescoes from the Middle Ages, it’s rather cluttered with lots of clashing ideas that sometimes work but are mostly confusing.
The biggest offender—that blasted keyboard. I have seen many comparisons with Alestorm, and this mostly comes by way of melodic folk injections, plus they likewise hail from the UK. Both groups employ a multitude of synthetic instruments, but they sound especially goofy here. The horns in “Hark the Herald” don’t sound as true as in other places, like “Seek the Grail”, and should not take center stage. There is also lots of repetition for such a short album, especially considering half of it had been written and released a year earlier on the Hark the Herald EP.
I tolerated the pseudo-flute in “Calling on all Heraldic Beasts” much better, as well as the horns that fade more to the background. Here they triumphantly sing of fabled creatures, but in a curious description mode. It gets even stranger about three minutes in, where there is simply, literally, a list: “lion, wyveryn, cockatrice…griffon, dragon, unicorn” (…and isn’t a lion…you know…real?). Two of my favorites from the first half may have trouble with broadcasters, though, as the bass-driven “Bash the Bishop” drops the c-bomb and the slightly blackened “Axe Wielding Nuns” are “claiming fucking skulls”.
The alluded heaviness comes darker on the second half, with the track that boasts the band’s namesake. I believe it uses the “Sally Forth” intro from the EP, which originally came before another leftover from the previous release, “Bring Me the Head of Metatron” (btw, Metatron is the vocalist for The Meads of Asphodel). It feels less playful and more vengeful, which is alright, but it still needs focus. Retain more evil vocals, acquire better synths, but otherwise stay the course. The production on “Jacque DeMolay” and especially album closer “Da Vinci’s Code” are commendable. Even though I think the latter’s lyrics are a load of horse hockey, it is still one of the best-realized songs from Jaldaboath thus far. Overall, The Rise of the Heraldic Beasts is unique, but still best received as novelty.
FCC: 3, 5
Try: 1, 2, 4, 8, 10
01. Hark the Herald
02. Calling on all Heraldic Beasts
03. Bash the Bishop
04. Seek the Grail
05. Axe Wielding Nuns
07. Bring Me the Head of Metatron
08. Jacque DeMolay
09. March to Calvary (instrumental)
10. Da Vinci’s Code