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.
"Return to Port Royal: Definitive Edition"
Genre: Power/Speed Metal
Release: Stormspell Records, 2020
Ahoy, mateys! Swedish multi-instrumentalist Cederick "Ced" Forsberg had announced that he was sending his pirate-metal project Blazon Stone to Davy Jones' locker in 2019 after the release of their "final" studio album, Hymns of Triumph and Death, in order to concentrate on other musical endeavors (like his new gig as the drummer for Poland's Crystal Viper) ... but apparently, you can't keep a scurvy crew down, because the Blazon Stone ship was still holding water in 2020.
Like most musicians, Ced found himself trapped in his home studio with plenty of time on his hands during the COVID-19 lockdown. Therefore, he temporarily re-activated Blazon Stone by re-recording all of the instrumental tracks to 2013's debut album, Return to Port Royal. (An apparent workaholic, Ced gave the same spit-and-polish treatment to Metal Strikes Back, the 2013 album by his other defunct band, Rocka Rollas, during his Corona-fueled down time.)
Now titled Return to Port Royal: The Definitive Edition, this new-and-improved take on the album features brand-new artwork and liner notes, and the CD will be a limited pressing of just 500 copies, which practically guarantees its future status as a collector's item.
So what do you say, me hearties? Let's hoist the skull and crossbones one last time and see what this album is all about!
"Return to Port Royal"
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In case you're unfamiliar with Blazon Stone's particular brand of retro power/speed metal, they are essentially a "tribute" to the long running, pirate-themed German metal band Running Wild (their name comes from the title of a Running Wild album from 1991), except they write their own material, if that makes any sense.
I have heard (and reviewed for this site) the rest of the Blazon Stone studio catalog over the past couple of years, but oddly enough I was not familiar with the "original" version of Return to Port Royal (I guess I wasn't on Stormspell's promo list yet when it was first released back in 2013). So for all intents and purposes, this Definitive Edition was a "new" album to me.
For those who may wonder about the differences between Blazon Stone and Ced's Rocka Rollas: both of them tread similar metallic paths, but aside from the obvious Running Wild/pirate fixation, the Blazon Stone material tends to be more "epic" and polished sounding than the Rocka Rollas, who are a bit dirtier/grittier, with an occasional tendency towards classic thrash metal. All in all, f you are a fan of early '80s power/speed metal like Helloween, Grave Digger, Blind Guardian, and (of course) Running Wild, you can't really go wrong with either band.
Re-Recording Guitar Solos
A brief instrumental intro, "Black Chest Inn," sets the scene for the all-cannons-blazing title track, whose four-on-the-floor drumming and light speed guitar work begins crushing posers immediately. "Stand Your Line" is a badass, hoist-your-mugs-of-rum-in-the-air pirate anthem, and the classy "Amistad Rebellion" manages to give listeners a brief history lesson amidst the metallic mayhem.
The speed metal killers "High Treason" and "Curse of the Ghost Ship" keep the Blazon Stone ship riding high, and so do the flat-out "Blackbeard" and "Beasts of War." "Wind In The Sails" is pure Walls of Jericho-era Helloween worship, and nine-minute closer "The Tale of Vasa" has more than a hint of Blind Guardian-style grandiosity in its churning rhythms and sing-along gang choruses.
The disc comes to a close with a live rendition of "Stand Your Line," which is just as killer as the album version, and a ripping cover of Running Wild's "Black Wings of Death" from their 1992 album Pile of Skulls - a nice, crunchy tip of the hat to the band that inspired Ced to form his own crew of high-seas scurvy dogs in the first place!
"Stand Your Line" (Definitive Edition Version)
The fast 'n frenzied Return to Port Royal: Definitive Edition is a cool "Director's Cut" release that is well worth checking out by all fans of Germanic and manic speed metal, even if you already own a copy of the 2013 original.
Interested parties can learn more about Return To Port Royal: Definitive Edition at Stormspell Records' Bandcamp page, or at the official Blazon Stone Facebook, where you can also get info on Ced's many other projects as a musician and a producer. Support underground metal!
© 2020 Keith Abt