I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Blazon Stone, "Damnation"
Genre: Power/Speed Metal
Label: Stormspell Records
Tracks: 10 / Run time: 43:02
I could have sworn that Swedish multi-instrumentalist and man of many bands, Cederick "Ced" Forsberg, had said he was putting an end to Blazon Stone, his pirate-obsessed old school speed metal project, at least two albums ago. Yet in 2021, two years after the supposedly "final" Blazon studio disc, Hymns of Triumph and Death and its accompanying live album Live in the Dark (not to mention 2020's freshly re-recorded and updated version of their Return to Port Royal debut), Blazon Stone has set sail yet again with Damnation, their newest studio album on Stormspell Records. What's more, Ced appears to have actually assembled a real live, honest-to-goodness full band this time out, rather than simply recording all of the instruments himself and hiring a session vocalist, which has been Blazon Stone's standard M.O. for the bulk of their existence.
Even with these wholesale changes, the Blazon Stone sound hasn't been altered one iota—Damnation is packed with the gloriously retro, triumphant speed/power metal a la early Helloween, Grave Digger, Blind Guardian, or Accept that we've come to expect, and of course they're still lyrically obsessed with piracy and high seas adventure like Ced's idols, Running Wild. In short, if you're a fan of Blazon Stone's previous works, Damnation will go down just fine... and if you've never heard them before, this is a great time to jump on board!
"Raiders of Jolly Roger"
The New Crew
Aside from the guitar team of Ced and Emil Weston (who's been a member of the Blazon Stone crew since the 2019 live album), the "new" B.S. lineup also includes bassist Marta Gabriel (a bandmate of Ced's in the Polish power metal combo Crystal Viper, as well as a solo artist in her own right), new vocalist Matias Palm (whose past resume includes such unfamiliar names as Domination Black and Merging Flare) and drummer Kalle Löfgren. Together the quintet takes the now-standard Blazon Stone template and kicks things up a notch or two in terms of intensity.
The 90-second intro "Damnation" kicks things off in suitably high-powered style, piledriving into the first proper track, "Endless Fire of Hate," a speed metal jiggety-jig with an irresistible, oh-so-metal gang-shouted chorus that will have you singing along in no time. Matias Palm's gritty but powerful vocals soar confidently above Ced and Emil's walls of shredding guitars while Marta and Kalle provide a rock solid rhythm section.
The barn burning "Raiders of Jolly Roger" appears to be the first "single" from the album, and it's an excellent pick that lets old fans know that Blazon Stone is back on the high seas, flying the skull and crossbones high.. You'll want to strap on your air guitar for the sizzling "Chainless Spirit," which has a slight Judas Priest feel and leads into the pummeling rhythms of "Black Sails on the Horizon."
"Wandering Souls" opens with some mellow guitar pickin' before it slams the gas pedal to the floor and gives the punters another infectious gang chorus to shout along with from the front row. "Hell on Earth" and the crunchy "Bohemian Renegade" keep the adrenaline pumping and then a brief pipe-and-drum instrumental (!) called "1671" serves as an intro to Damnation's massive closing track, "Highland Outlaw," a nearly ten minute epic about the famed Scottish folk hero, Rob Roy. If you can picture Iron Maiden's "The Clansman" in a speed metal context, you're in Blazon Stone's ballpark. The pipes come back into play at around the three quarter mark of and Matias Palm gives his best, most in-command performance on this track. The lyrics to this song actually led me to do some reading up on Rob Roy, which is something I haven't done in a while. (Who says speed metal isn't educational?) It ends the album with a major "bang" and will leave listeners screaming for more.
Summing It Up
In the past, I've proclaimed my favorite Blazon Stone album to be 2017's Down in the Dark, but after a couple of spins of Damnation, there may be a new sheriff in town. If you're not making the devil-horn hand sign or waving a mug of ale in the air after a few minutes of this album, your metal card is officially revoked!
In short, Damnation is another damn fine slab of historical/pirate metal from Ced and his scurvy crew, and I hope the Blazon Stone ship continues to sail the high seas for many more years (and albums) to come.
Stormspell's CD release of Damnation will be available from Sept. 15th, and for you vinyl junkies, an LP version is reportedly in the works for later this year.
© 2021 Keith Abt