BATTLELORE
"Evernight"

(Napalm)

01. House of Heroes
02. Ocean's Elysium
03. Summon the Wolves
04. We Are the Legions
05. Into the New World
06. Longing Horizon
07. Mask of Flies
08. The Cloak and the Dagger
09. Beneath the Waves

RATING: 5/10

What happened here? This over-the-top seven-piece Finnish act unleashed one of 2005's top guilty pleasures in "Third Age of the Sun", an album that crackled with life from start to finish. Its Tolkien-inspired imagery and vocal interplay (primarily soaring female vocals and a bellowing male death growl) propelled some seriously killer songs, and the inspired performances within made BATTLELORE one of the best up-and-coming fantasy metal bands to watch.

I think in publicist-speak, the word for a record like "Evernight" is "maturity." Unfortunately, what that really means here is that the band has settled into a comfortable rut, plodding along in their chosen style in a lackluster way. Vocalist Kaisa Jokhi seems to be singing the same vocal line throughout the album, in a half-asleep lilt, never providing any hooks or passion to make the songs special. Not to be outdone, the guitars and keyboards rarely flare up into anything interesting, instead providing a safe, bland musical bed for Jokhi and death vocalist Tomi Mykkänen to spout off pedantically.

"Evernight" doesn't suffer from bad production — the keyboards are as epic as ever, the riffs as forceful. But the songwriting does it in, utterly lacking in inspiration and personality, a huge step backward for the band. The overall effect is as gray and grim as the album art — almost oppressive, devoid of dynamics or the creative spark that made the band such a kick in the past. All we're left with is a bunch of dorks in Renaissance faire costumes, and this time around, they don't even sound like they want to be at the party.

So again I ask — what happened? "Evernight" is a pleasant, pedestrian snooze, which would have been bad enough for a new band's debut, but is inexcusable after such a worthy predecessor as "Third Age of the Sun". Is the band trying to streamline their sound for more commercial potential? Are they just worn out and in need of a break? I don't know, but I sincerely hope this is a minor misstep, and not the beginning of the end for a band with so much potential.

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