are a symphonic black metal
band from Yorkshire
, formed in 1993.
Originally formed as an epic/symphonic black metal band with strong death metal elements, vocalist/lyricist Byron Roberts took the name 'Bal-Sagoth' from the Robert E. Howard short story "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth". Their first demo was recorded in 1993, and Bal-Sagoth have since released three albums on Cacophonous Records, and three with Nuclear Blast.
Bal-Sagoth was conceived in 1989 by Byron Roberts
, in an attempt to form what he called "A sublimely symphonic black
band swathed in a concept of dark fantasy
and ancient myths & legends." Inspired by such writers and artists as Robert E. Howard
, H. P. Lovecraft
, Clark Ashton Smith
, Edgar Rice Burroughs
and Jack Kirby
, Byron set out to create his own dark fantasy universe, with tales told through epic lyrics and music. After several unsuccessful attempts to launch the project, Byron enlisted the musical skills of brothers Chris and Jonny Maudling
in 1993, forming what would become the writing core of the band. With Chris on guitar, and Jonny on drums, the band enlisted bassist Jason Porter and keyboardist Vincent Crabtree, and recorded their first demo in late 1993. More of a straight ahead death metal
effort with symphonic elements, the demo attracted the attention of Cacophonous Records
, who signed the band to a three album deal.
The band entered Academy Music Studio in June 1994 and recorded their debut album, A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria, in just two weeks. Due to label problems, the album was shelved for nearly a year, finally seeing the light of day in 1995. The album stands as the band's heaviest release, showcasing more traditional black metal/death metal ideas, and less symphonic elements. The vocal style of Byron is also different from later efforts, using more traditional death metal and black metal grunts, as well as the spoken narrative passages which would become more prevalent on subsequent albums.
In 1996, Bal-Sagoth released Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule
, again recorded at Academy Music Studio
. The album marked a key shift in the band's sound, now focusing more on the composition and arrangement skills of drummer (and studio keyboard player) Jonny Maudling
, as well as the "storytelling" aspect of Byron's spoken-word vocals. Through keyboards, the band incorporated a virtual symphony orchestra as an equal fifth instrument, along with guitar, bass, drums and vocals. This new sound would be expanded and explored on all four of the band's later efforts.
Joined by touring keyboardist Leon Forrest and bassist Alistair MacLatchy, Bal-Sagoth teamed up with Dark Funeral and Ancient in March 1997 for the "Starfire Engulfs Europe Tour", a 23-date trek through Europe, followed by the second leg in October 1997 with the black metal band Emperor and Nocturnal Breed.
Bal-Sagoth spent much of 1997 writing and recording what would become the album Battle Magic
. Again recorded at Academy Music Studio
in England, this time the band were afforded nearly a full month to record the album. Released in March 1998, Battle Magic
caught the attention of Nuclear Blast
records, who signed Bal-Sagoth to a three album deal with worldwide distribution (a first for the band).
Rather than tour in support of Battle Magic, the band opted to immediately focus on the writing and recording of their Nuclear Blast debut. Frustrated with fill-in tour keyboard players, Jonny Maudling decided to focus full time on composition and live keyboards in 1999, handing drum duties over to Dave Mackintosh (later of DragonForce).
Nuclear Blast Era
In 1999, Bal-Sagoth released their first album with Nuclear Blast, The Power Cosmic
. Focusing on an intergalactic tale of war, cosmic empires, and celestial gods, the album pushed the band to new heights both artistically, and in popularity. After the release of The Power Cosmic
, the band again disappeared, playing no shows until the release of 2001's Atlantis Ascendant
The band resurfaced as a live act in 2001, embarking on "The Fifth Cataclysm Devours Europe: Phase 1" tour (AKA: No Mercy festival tour) with Mortician, Sinister, Vader, Amon Amarth, Marduk, God Dethroned, ...and Oceans, and Mystic Circle. Shortly after this, they embarked upon another European tour with Marduk. Later in 2002, the band played the Bloodstock indoor festival, which was followed by a short tour with Return to the Sabbat in the United Kingdom. In 2004, Dave Macintosh left the band and joined DragonForce. He was replaced by drummer Dan Mullins, who made his debut with Bal-Sagoth at Wacken Open Air 2004.
In March 2006, Bal-Sagoth released their long awaited sixth album, The Chthonic Chronicles on Nuclear Blast records. The music was recorded entirely at Jonny Maudling's Waylands Forge Studios, while the vocals were recorded once again at the famed Academy Music Studio. The album was the band's first in five years, and is rumoured to be their last. Shortly after its release the band recruited a new drummer, Paul "Wak" Jackson.
In the summer of 2006, Bal-Sagoth played the Bloodstock Open Air festival, and in January 2007 they made their first trip to the USA to headline the "Heathen Crusade II" festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. In January 2008, they journeyed to Finland to play shows in Helsinki and Turku.
The Multiverse, sometimes also unofficially called the "Sagothverse" or the Antediluvian World (though this can be misleading, since only certain eras of the Multiverse could be called "antediluvian"), is the alternate reality in which Byron's lyrics are set. Based on ideas similar in concept to H. P. Lovecraft
, Edgar Rice Burroughs
, and especially Robert E. Howard
, the Multiverse is mostly past tense, wherein Byron describes ancient events that have already transpired. Worldwide floods, pan-galactic wars, rogue demigods, ancient empires and kingdoms, and sinister artifacts compose this alternate history of the earth. Mythical places such as Atlantis
, Ultima Thule
, and Albion
feature prominently. Additionally, many of the lyrics are set within the framework of recognizable history, with a cast of characters including historical barbarians, gladiators, corsairs and privateers, archaeologists and occult investigators whose exploits take place during recorded history from Roman times through the age of Reason, the late 1800s and early 1900s. Along with Byron's other, more science fiction oriented lyrics detailing a far future era of galactic struggle and interstellar war, the Bal-Sagoth lyrics span countless aeons and are truly epic in scope.
Legends of the lyrical world of Bal-Sagoth
- The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire - A three part saga wherein one of the Kings of Hyperborea is forced to meet the forces of the Chaos Lord Angsaar at the Shrine of A'zura-Kai, where they battle for control of the powerful Crystal of Mera. The King wields the mighty Shadow Sword, which was used long before by an Immortal of Ultima Thule in a battle to defeat Angsaar during his first rise to power. Featured on the albums Starfire Burning... (Pt. I), Battle Magic (Pt. II), and Atlantis Ascendant (Pt. III).
- The Obsidian Crown Saga - The tale of the warring kingdoms of Vyrgothia and The Imperium. The Imperium invades Vyrgothia, besieging the fortress of Gul-Kothoth, but the Over-King of Vyrgothia unleashes the dread Obsidian Crown, which contains arcane power and was once wielded by the Shadow King, an entity of immense power who had slumbered for many aeons. Featured on the albums Starfire Burning... and The Chthonic Chronicles.
- The battles of the tribal over-king Caylen-Tor - A barbarian warrior who forges a tenuous alliance of the tribes of his northern homeland, Caylen-Tor must lead his clansmen into battle against the overwhelming forces of the eastern Mytos K'unn empire. The decisive clash occurs at Blackhelm Vale and results in the Imperial forces being repulsed by the rag-tag tribal warhird. ''Featured on the album Starfire Burning...
- The Quest of Zurra for the Empyreal Lexicon - The galactic tale of Zurra, a rogue demigod (in truth an alien genetic experiment gone horribly wrong) who is released from his imprisonment beneath the Mare Imbrium, as he searches for the pieces of the powerful Empyreal Lexicon. He travels to Callisto, faces the fiends of the Z'xulth, and finally wreaks havoc on ancient Mu, but is thwarted by his clone progenitor Zuranthus and The Prime Voyager. Featured on The Power Cosmic.
- The Chronicles of the Forest-King of Darkenhold - Many tales are set within or indirectly involve the great Darkenhold forest and its mystical sylvan liege, the Forest King. Primarily allegorical in nature, the forest sagas involve such elements as the encroachment of an insidious eastern foe into the sovereign boundaries of the forest, and are also thematically linked to the story of the Draconis Albionensis and the legendary Dragon Cavalry which protected Albion from all foreign foes.
- The Guardians of the Astral Gate - These sidereal sentinels are the eternal keepers of the portal between the realm of the Z'xulth and the terran dimensions. Headed by Xuk'ul, this group of demigods is constantly summoned by aspirants in various attempts at gaining power or knowledge. Their ruthlessness when dealing with such querents is unrivaled. Other guardians include Kur'oc, Gul-Kor (these two guardians are the most popular, as they are summoned more than any other guardians), and Ka-Kur-Ra. Featured on the albums Starfire Burning..., Battle Magic, The Power Cosmic, Atlantis Ascendant, and The Chthonic Chronicles.
- The Adventures of Professor Caleb Blackthorne III - English archaeologist and specialist in conjectural antediluvian anthropology, Professor Blackthorne travels the globe in search of ancient mysteries and forbidden knowledge before ultimately falling foul of the mysterious powers that safeguard such lore from the meddlings of mankind. Featured on the albums Atlantis Ascendant, and The Chthonic Chronicles.
- Many of Byron's lyrical stories are soon to be expanded into short stories and graphic novels (written by Byron and illustrated by fantasy artist Martin Hanford), and the forthcoming expanded Glossary will be the definitive A-Z of all the characters and events of the vast lyrical universe.
- Jason Porter – live bass
- Vincent Crabtree – live keyboards, plus some tracks on 1993 demo and first album
- Leon Forrest – live keyboards
- Alistair MacLatchy – live bass
- Dave Mackintosh – drums
- Dan Mullins − drums